A pastor with heart and mind

A pastor with heart and mind

Auxiliary Bishop Dieter Geerlings © Harald Oppitz (KNA)

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation request of Dieter Geerlings, auxiliary bishop of Munster. For health reasons he had asked the pope for his resignation. Five years earlier than normal, Geerlings is emeritus with immediate effect.

A suffragan bishop in charge of the Coesfeld/Recklinghausen region since 2010, and until now a member of the Caritas and Migration Commissions of the German Bishops' Conference, he had to have his stomach removed in 2015. Although the cancer was successfully treated, so that the auxiliary bishop was able to resume his ministry a few months after the operation, it became clear that the limitations of the cancer were not sufficient.

However, it became clear that the restrictions in his daily life were not compatible with his work schedule, the necessary mobility and the stresses and strains of the office of an auxiliary bishop. A medical report also recommends "urgently and promptly" his retirement. Therefore, in accordance with church law and after consultation with Munster's Bishop Felix Genn, Geerlings submitted his resignation in September.

No successor

Meanwhile, the Diocese of Munster announced that there would be no successor for Geerlings and thus only four auxiliary bishops left in the diocese. "We cannot have fewer and fewer priests on the ground in the parishes and continue as before at the top of the diocese," Felix Genn, the bishop of Munster, told the Diocesan Council, explaining his decision. The Coesfeld/Recklinghausen region will be split up.

Illness not compatible with schedule

Geerlings regretted the necessity for this step. "As far as my health permits, I will continue to support our bishop and the other auxiliary bishops in their ministry in prayer and with advice and action," he said. Genn appeared divided over the development. "On the one hand, I am very grateful to Pope Francis for accepting the request for resignation, because even auxiliary bishops and bishops have to take their health into consideration," the bishop said. On the other hand, the diocese is losing "an outstanding auxiliary bishop who was a great support to me in many respects". Geerlings was "always and first and foremost a pastor" and "very close to the questions and concerns of the people".

With a sharp mind and very great expertise, he had analyzed the ies that preoccupy the Church today. The bishop announced that Geerlings would continue to lead confirmation services and make appointments within the scope of his possibilities. But his duties in the diocesan leadership were omitted. He will also no longer participate in the plenary sessions of the Bishops' Conference. On the other hand, he remains episcopal commissioner for the pastoral care of Catholics of other mother tongues, rector of the Clemens Church in Munster and member of the cathedral chapter.

Genn: Grateful but sad

In an initial statement, Bishop Genn said: "Dieter Geerlings has always been and continues to be a pastor, even as an auxiliary bishop. He was and is always very close to the questions and concerns of the people. He is someone who approaches people and has no fear of contact. With a sharp mind and a great deal of expertise, he analyzed the ies that concern us as a church today. He was always guided by the perspective: How can we as a church be there for people in their respective situations today?."

Dieter Geerlings was born on 15. Born on July 1947 in Emmerich in the Lower Rhine region of Germany. After studying theology and philosophy in Munster and Tubingen, he was ordained a priest in Munster in 1973. Until 1984 he was vicar in Kleve, Munster and Herten. From 1984, he was regional vicar for the Lower Rhine region in Xanten before taking over as Caritas president in 1988. He also presided over the Catholic Hospital Association of Germany (KKVD) from 2001 to 2011. In 1995, he became a cathedral chaplain in Munster, and on 29 September, he was appointed bishop of Munster. August 2010 he was consecrated bishop. Within the Bishops' Conference, Geerlings was also the commissioner for the pastoral care of Sinti and Roma.

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