Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Après Danneels, Muscle for Brussels

In one of the more highly-awaited appointments of the year, an Italian report says that the one of the global church's leading progressive voices is to be succeeded by his country's "most traditional bishop."

After a prolonged succession battle, Il Giornale's Andrea Tornielli relayed earlier tonight that Bishop Andre Mutien Leonard of Namur, 69, would be named archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels "in the coming days." The news arrives nineteen months after the veteran primate Cardinal Godfried Danneels reached the retirement age of 75.

Head of the Belgian church since 1979, the Volkswagen-driving Fleming has been widely hailed as one of the global hierarchy's top intellects, and seemingly just as often stoked controversy for public tweaks of the church's prevailing winds on, among other things, the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV, the role of women in ecclesial governance and the ecclesial status of gay and civilly-remarried Catholics.

In his place at the helm of the 1.6 million-member Brussels church -- and a Belgian fold numbering some 7 million -- the pontiff has ostensibly chosen the head of the country's smallest diocese, but one which reportedly boasts half of Belgium's 70 seminarians. Head of his native church since 1991, Leonard is a longtime collaborator of the Pope's, having served as a member of the Vatican's International Theological Commission during then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's tenure at the CDF advisory body and, according to Tornielli, has been an "enthusiastic" supporter of Summorum Pontificum, B16's 2007 motu proprio facilitating the wider celebration of the 1962 Missal. (Leonard celebrated a high-profile Tridentine Mass, shown above, during the 2008 Eucharistic Congress in Quebec.) The bishop likewise preached the 1999 Lenten retreat for Pope John Paul II and the Roman Curia.

With Brussels now said to be filled, among other post-75 prelates still awaiting their successors on the global front are the cardinal-archbishops of Seoul, Guatemala City, Prague, Manila, Bogotá, Turin, Guadalajara, Santiago de Chile, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City and, in B16's homeland, another of Europe's most influential posts: the archbishopric of Cologne, where Cardinal Joachim Meisner turned 76 on Christmas Day.

On the opposite side of the coin, meanwhile, retired cardinals in Warsaw, Bangkok and Munich have recently reached their 80th birthdays (making them ineligible to vote in a conclave), with those of Toronto, Palermo, Wellington and Washington soon to follow suit. Their respective successors form the front flank of the College of Cardinals' likely intake at the next consistory, widely expected to take place later this year.