Appointment of Catholic bishops

Appointment of Catholic bishops

The appointment of bishops in the Catholic Church is a complicated process. Outgoing bishops, neighboring bishops, the faithful, the apostolic nuncio, various members of the Roman Curia, and the pope all have a role in the selection. The exact process varies based upon a number of factors, including whether the bishop is from the Latin Church or one of the Eastern Catholic Churches, the geographic location of the diocese, what office the candidate is being chosen to fill, and whether the candidate has previously been ordained to the episcopate.

Pastoral bishops in the Latin Church

A diocese may become vacant for a number of reasons. Canon 401 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law states that all bishops must submit their resignation to the pope at the age of 75. The letter goes first to the Apostolic nuncio or Apostolic delegate, the pope's representative in the country or region. He will forward it to the Secretariat of State in Vatican City. The pope has a range of options from accepting the resignation right away to asking the bishop to stay until a successor is chosen; in Latin "donec aliter provideatur" or "until further provision is made". This first step could take several months, or even longer. A diocese or its equivalent may also become vacant upon the current bishop's transfer to another see or position, or his death.

Once the diocese becomes vacant, the college of consultors or the cathedral chapter of the diocese will elect a Diocesan administrator to maintain the diocese until a new bishop is chosen. The pope may also appoint an Apostolic administrator for the vacant diocese.

In a planned vacancy, such as a retirement or transfer, the exiting bishop will compile a report on the state of the diocese, outlining its needs, and possibly nominating candidates for his successor; this report is sent to the nuncio. Additionally, the local metropolitan bishop will call a provincial synod to discuss the vacant diocese and make recommendations for its successor; this report is also sent to the nuncio. The nuncio may also consult with the president of the local episcopal conference to identify candidates.

The nuncio then begins his personal investigation. He may verify the reports he has received by meeting with members of the clergy, religious, and the laity in the diocese. During this investigation he may ask their opinions as to who should become the next bishop.cite web | url= | title=Canon 377 | work=1983 Code of Canon Law | accessdate=2007-07-01 ] This was seen in the "Irish Times" (12 April 2007) when published a leaked letter from the Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, asking a number of priests who should be the next bishop of their diocese. Lazzarotto, when contacted about his views on the leaked document, said, "all aspects relating to the process of episcopal appointments should be dealt with in the strictest confidentiality. I trust that you will understand that I cannot depart from this practice."

The nuncio then decides on a short list of candidates for further investigation. The candidates can include priests and bishops in the diocese and its province, and may also include those from further afield. He further investigates and narrows the list to three names. Indicating his preference, he sends those names and all of his notes and the reports to the Holy See,cite web | url= | title=Canon 364 | work=1983 Code of Canon Law | accessdate=2007-07-01 ] where the nomination is considered by one of three Congregations within the Roman Curia, the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, or the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, depending on the country the vacant diocese is located in.

The Congregation evaluates the nuncio's report. If the nuncio has recommended an existing bishop be transferred to the vacant see, and the prefect of the Congregation agrees with the choice, the prefect and staff prepare a report for papal approval. If the nuncio has recommended that a priest become the new bishop, or if the prefect disagrees with the nuncio's choice, the full membership of the Congregation votes on the matter at one of its regular meetings. They might accept the recommendation, support another name from the list, or ask the nuncio to prepare another list. Then, the list and a report from the Congregation goes to the pope for approval. If there is a consensus then the Pope tends to agree, however if there are disagreements closer inspection will be taken. The process usually takes between nine months and one year, although longer vacancies are not uncommon. As an example, the Lake Charles diocese was vacant for two years, 2005–2007.

In The Netherlands the tradition is that the diocesan chapter, the diocese's most important advisory council sends a list to the Holy See, via the Nuncio of three names. If none is acceptable to Rome, the chapter is asked for another list. However, Rome can reject the list in its entirety and proceed with an appointment of a totally different bishop [,9171,942471-2,00.html] .


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