Monday, February 05, 2007


In this morning's personnel slate, Pope Benedict accepted the dual resignations of Bishop Amédée Grab OSB and Auxiliary Bishop Peter Henrici SJ of Chur, Switzerland.

No scandal here -- both Grab, who turned 77 on Saturday and Henrici, 79 at the end of March, were well past the canonical age of retirement.

This pontificate's usual practice of stringent adherence to accepting resignations at or near 75 was notably relaxed in this case. The delayed announcement marks the end of a decade-long smoothing out period following years of controversy in Switzerland's second-largest diocese.

Then president of the Swiss episcopal conference, Grab was named to Chur in 1998 to help quell tensions exacerbated by his predecessor, Wolfgang Haas. A favorite of church conservatives and familiar presence on the Continent's indult circuit, Haas' style was met with fierce resistance and protests by laity in Chur. When the years-long impasse became untenable, Rome punted, creating an "immediately subject" archdiocese encompassing the tiny principality of Liechtenstein -- previously part of the Chur diocese -- and entrusting it to Haas.

Bishop Grab served from 2003 until last October as head of the federated European episcopal conference. While no successor to his diocesan post was named today, one of his Swiss Benedictine confreres could well end up with the nod: 45 year-old Abbot Martin Werlen of Einsideln.

Seen as a rising star in the Swiss church, Werlen took an innovative tack in the quest to bring the lost sheep home in 2003, hosting a retreat for disaffected Catholics at the centuries-old shrine he's headed for six years.

"There are many people who are struggling with the Church," the abbot told a Swiss magazine at the time. "They sometimes go to church but don’t approach us with their problems. This pilgrimage is our invitation to them, so we can address their needs."