Page 2, 4th February 1972

4th February 1972
Page 2
Page 2, 4th February 1972 — Pope's appointment of Dutch bishop causes new stir

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Pope's appointment of Dutch bishop causes new stir

FROM A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT A BOUT a year after the controversy over the nomination of Bishop Simonis of Rotterdam, Pope Paul named another new Dutch • bishop whose appointment displeases prominent Catholics in the diocese he is to head.

The cathedral chapter of the diocese of Rocrmond issued a statement saying that by nominating Fr. John Matthew Gijsen, 39, 10 succeed Bishop Peter Moors, who retired in December 1970. as head of the Roermond diocese, the Vatican neglected the "carefully prepared advice of the chapter."

Informed sources in the diocese say Fr, Gijsen's name was not on the list of three candidates sent to the Pope by the chapter. and in its statement the chapter said the bishopelect was not the "moderately progressive person" the people of the diocese indicated ia an opinion poll that they wanted.

But the chapter asked the Catholics of the diocese to have confidence and trust in the bishop-elect.

At the end of last month a

group of 50 priests of the diocese of Roermond asked Bishop-elect Gijsen t withdraw his acceptance of the nomination. But at a news conference two days earlier, the bishop-elect had said that he would never reverse his decision to accept the nomination and that only the Pope could cancel the nomination.


Bishop-elect Gijsen is a longtime friend of Bishop Simonis — considered a spokesman for conservative Dutch Catholics — and has said that he and Bishop Simonis are "congenial spirits." Last summer they visited the Vatican together and the visit was widely publicised in the Dutch press.

There were rumours at that time that Bishop Simonis was presenting his candidate for the diocese of Roermond to the Vatican.

When the Pope appointed Bishop Simonis, the Rotterdam diocesan pastoral council, the 14 deans of the diocese and other individuals and groups in the Rotterdam diocese and through-out the Netherlands protested against the appointment.

A considerable number of the Rotterdam diocese's clergy and laity, particularly those actively involved in Church affairs, had indicated preferences for candidates other than Bishop Simonis.

He had opposed the Dutch National Pastoral Council's call for optional priestly celibacy and had supported Pope Paul's 1968 encyclical Ilainanae Vitae, which reaffirmed the Church's traditional opposition to artificial birth control.


To avoid a similar controversy, the Roermond chapter eliminated from the selection process several steps that require the participation of various groups in the diocese. Instead they held an opinion poll among the people of the diocese to find out what qualities they thought a new bishop should have.

No names were mentioned in the poll, but on its basis the chapter recommended three names to the Pope.

Bishop-elect Gijsen denied that there was any connection between his visit to the Vatican last summer with Bishop Simonis and his nomination.

Asked to comment on the Vatican's decision to ignore the advice of the Roermond chapter. the bishop-elect said that the ultimate decision had to be made by the Pope and that Church history taught that the Pope often deviated from the advice of a diocesan chapter.

The Dutch bishops issued a statement expressing confidence that they could collaborate with the new bishop of Roermond. After his nomination was made public on January 22 the retired Bishop Moors, Auxiliary Bishop Bed of Roermond and the diocese's secretary, Fr. Peter Moonen, visited Bishopelect Gijsen to congratulate him on his appointment. In a public statement, Fr. Walter Goddijn, director of the Pastoral Institute of the Dutch Church Province and an adviser of the Dutch bishops, expressed great disappointment with the procedure of the nomination.

At the time of his nomination, Bishop-elect Gijsen was director of a home for the aged at Nuenhcm, near Roermond, a professor of history in a college at Echt and a professor at the Limburg Academy of Architecture at Maastricht.

Born in the village of Kruispunt Beugen, Bishop-elect Gijsen studied at the minor and major seminaries of the diocese of Roermond and was ordained in 1957. He earned a doctorafe in Church history at Bonn University in 1964.

The Dutch national Catholic daily De Tijd said in an editorial that it hoped the "Simonis affair" would not be repeated in the Roermond diocese. It added: "With a second Simonis affair both the authority of Rome and the authority of the Dutch hierarchy would be at stake."

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