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Retired Belgian Bishop Lucas van Looy of Ghent has asked Pope Francis to withdraw his nomination for appointment as a cardinal. Francis has agreed.

The Belgian bishops’ conference issued a statement last week announcing the decision and thanking van Looy for making the request.

The statement said the 80-year old van Looy’s appointment “provoked many positive reactions, but also criticism that as Bishop of Ghent (2004-2019) he did not always react vigorously enough against abuses in the pastoral relationship”.

It went on to explain the retired Belgian bishop declined the pope’s invitation “to prevent the victims of such abuses from being hurt again following his cardinalate”.

Cardinal Jozef De Kesel, the Conference president, reiterated the Belgian bishops’ commitment “to continue imperturbably their fight against all forms of abuse in the Catholic Church in which the interest of the victims and their relatives always comes first”.

Van Looy is the first cardinal-designate named by Francis to publicly request that he not be named to the College of Cardinals.

He led the Diocese of Ghent from 2003 to 2019. He had spent 12 years in South Korea as a Salesian missionary and almost 20 years in Rome as a member of the Salesian order’s leadership team before being named bishop of Ghent by St John Paul II.

Francis accepted his resignation as bishop of Ghent in November 2019 when the bishop was 78.

Van Looy spoke before a Belgian parliamentary commission on sexual abuse in 2010. On that occasion, he said he was deeply ashamed about the sex abuse scandals that have shaken the Catholic Church in Belgium and around the world.

He affirmed that the Church has a duty to report to authorities any suspicion of sexual abuse by members of the clergy.


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