29 June 2023, The Tablet

Major Church appointments in Belgium and France

Luc Terlinden was due to receive his pallium as Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels in Rome on 29 June.

Major Church appointments in Belgium and France

Fr Luc Terlinden, the 54-year-old appointed the next Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels.
Belga News Agency/Alamy

Pope Francis has taken two important decisions in churches in Belgium and France, naming a relatively young ally as the new archbishop of Brussels and quickly appointing an apostolic administrator for a bishop defending himself against sexual abuse allegations.

Aged only 54, Fr Luc Terlinden has been catapulted to the top of the small Belgian Church as the next Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, a post that also carries the title of primate of Belgium.

He was due to receive his pallium from the pontiff in Rome on 29 June, the feast of Sts Peter and Paul.

He earned a doctorate there in moral theology, studying the writings of Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor and St John Henry Newman.

A French-speaker from the Brussels area, his appointment follows the tradition of alternating the bilingual capital’s chair between French and Flemish speakers. All speak both languages.

He was ordained by the late Cardinal Godfried Danneels, and continues the quiet reformist trend in Belgium where the bishops recently won papal approval for their plan to bless same-sex couples, at the same time as bishops in neighbouring Germany could not.

In France, Pope Francis quickly named the Bishop of Luçon François Jacolin as apostolic administrator of the nearby diocese of La Rochelle as Bishop Georges Colomb prepares his defence against allegations he abused a young man while he was superior general of the Foreign Missions of Paris (MEP).

Colomb, whose diocese includes the French archipelago of St Pierre and Miquelon off Newfoundland in Canada, denies the charges and has taken leave of his role of local ordinary without giving it up.

French bishops cautiously stressed the “innocent-until-proven-guilty” principle for Colomb and his MEP vicar general, the current Strasbourg auxiliary bishop Gilles Reithinger, accused of hushing up the case. 

The MEP has handed the case over to the National Canonical Criminal Court, a novelty in the Catholic world created last year because many local canonical courts – the usual instance for such issues – are often understaffed and incapable of handling complex cases.

The case has led to calls to reform the nomination of bishops. Critics say the local nuncio and the Dicastery for Bishops in Rome carry no responsibility for bishops they advise the Pope to appoint and then fail on the job.

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