Diocese deadlock ended by appointment of Opus Dei bishop

Swiss deadlock ended by Pope

The deadlock over the appointment of a new bishop in the historic Swiss diocese of Chur has been ended by Pope Francis.

The Holy See press office said on Feb. 15 that the pope had named Msgr. Joseph Marie Bonnemain as bishop of Chur in eastern Switzerland.

Bonnemain, a 72-year-old member of Opus Dei, previously served as judicial vicar and canon of the cathedral chapter of Chur diocese. He succeeds Bishop Vitus Huonder, who retired on May 20, 2019, at the age of 77.

Bishop Felix Gmür of Basel welcomed the appointment.

“After years of waiting for a new bishop for the diocese of Chur, the election of Joseph Maria Bonnemain is a great sign of peace and hope for the diocese of Chur and the entire Church in Switzerland,” Gmür said.

“Bishop Joseph is a bridge-builder — a person of clarity and a conciliatory clergyman who knows how to integrate opinions.”

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that the diocese has seen fierce internal battles and the new bishop’s priority will be to heal divisions in the diocese.

Pope Pius XII established the current rules for the selection of bishops in the diocese in the 1948 decree “Etsi salva.” It gives the cathedral chapter the privilege of electing a bishop from among three priests proposed by the Holy See.

Local media reported last November that Chur’s cathedral chapter had rejected all three candidates proposed by Pope Francis. At the top of the list was Bonnemain, reportedly rejected for being too old and for his “ideological evolution.”

Bonnemain was the only candidate with a direct connection to the diocese, which dates back to 451. The diocese covers seven of the 26 cantons of Switzerland, including the canton of Zürich.

The bishop-elect was born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1948, to a Swiss father and Catalan mother. He studied medicine in Zürich, graduating in 1975. After completing his philosophical and theological studies in Rome, he was ordained a priest of Opus Dei on Aug. 15, 1978.


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