Friday, January 22, 2010

Vocations-Promoting Bishop Made Primate of Belgium

New Archbishop Reveals 3 Pastoral Priorities

By Jesús Colina

BRUSSELS, Belgium, JAN. 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Vocations, liturgy and a genuine concern for social issues are the three priorities announced by the new archbishop of Brussels.

Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard spoke of these goals Monday, the day his appointment as the primate of Belgium was made public. The archbishop was accompanied at the press conference by his predecessor, 76-year-old Cardinal Godfried Danneels.

The new archbishop noted that he will soon be 70; the age for retirement according to canon law is 75.

"This means that, on the condition that I maintain the good health I have today, I'll have no more than five years to serve this Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels," said this philosopher and theologian, who was bishop of Namur for almost 20 years.

"You can see, therefore, that I must establish priorities to use the years that in principle I have before me as effectively as possible," he stated.

In virtue of his new office, according to the tradition in Belgium, Archbishop Léonard also becomes president of the episcopal conference and bishop of the dioceses of the Armed Forces.

Worthy of God

The prelate announced first of all that he intends to carry out a systematic visit of the archdiocese to get to know the reality firsthand.

He said he hoped to promote one of the key ideas expressed in Cardinal Danneels' homilies and addresses in the last few weeks: "the importance of an elegant liturgy, faithful to the great tradition of the Church, worthy of God and worthy of the men and women who take part in it."

In his farewells, recalled Archbishop Léonard, his predecessor expressed his hopes "that our Church will be ever more a 'praying' and 'adoring' Church, also explicitly inviting to foster the practice of Eucharistic adoration."

"I would like to commit myself decidedly in this direction," the prelate confirmed.

The other pastoral priority that Archbishop Léonard will promote, following in the footsteps of Cardinal Danneels, is "social concern, especially in the matter of housing. I would like to follow his steps as best I can in this area, as in many others."

Archbishop Leonard then pointed out as a priority "concern for vocations, for all vocations."

"The commitment of so many Christians, men and women, in society and in our parishes and movements is a blessing," stressed the polyglot archbishop, who speaks seven languages.

"But we also need consecrated men and women, as well as priests and deacons," he affirmed.

Archbishop Léonard as bishop of Namur was known for the growth of his seminary: There, 35 of the 71 Belgian seminarians study.

"It is clear that I do not have recipes to awaken or attract vocations to consecrated life or to the priesthood, but I know that the Lord wants to give them to us and I promise to do everything I can to respond to his will," he said.

The archbishop announced on his Web page that, because of his appointment, he has changed his second name, Mutien (which he had adopted when he was appointed bishop of Namur), to Joseph, holy patron of Belgium. Archbishop André-Mutien Léonard will now be called André-Joseph Léonard.

He will take possession of the Primate See on Feb. 28.

[Anita S. Bourdin contributed to this report]


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