Sunday, May 26, 2024

Christian Catholic Church elects Frank Bangerter as bishop

The Swiss Old Catholics have decided on a new bishop.  

On Friday, the National Synod in Aarau elected elected Frank Bangerter, a priest from Zurich, as the eighth bishop of the Christian Catholic Church in Switzerland. 

Bangerter has already been a member of the Synodal Council, the leadership of the Christian Catholic Church, and prevailed over two other candidates in the election. 

As bishop, he wants to advocate reforms: "I stand for a Christian Catholic Church in Switzerland that is open and courageous. For a church that does good, as we already do in many places - but that also talks about it." 

The consecration of the 61-year-old bishop will take place on 14 September in Bern.

The election became necessary after the previous Bishop Harald Rein announced his resignation last year three years before reaching the age limit. Bangerter was elected in the sixth ballot with the necessary two-thirds majority. 

Previously, the Bernese and Grenchen pastor Christoph Schuler had withdrawn his candidature after the third ballot and the Zurich pastor Lars Simpson after the fifth ballot.

Bangerter lives in Grenchen with his partner of many years. "The Christian Catholic Church has two achievements, the ordination of women and marriage for all, which I see as undisputed potential," emphasised the newly elected bishop. "We can and want to express even more that we are an open, liberal church in the Catholic tradition."

Strengthening parishes and involving the laity more

Mr Bangerter, who trained as an economist, was born in 1963 and grew up in the Reformed faith. He later converted to the Christian Catholic Church, studied theology and became a priest. 

Before his election, he emphasised the synodal nature of the office of bishop in the Christian Catholic Church: "The bishop can have ideas, but just having an idea is not enough. We are synodal, and bishop and synodal can only work together." 

As bishop, he would like to seek even greater contact with the people.

Bangerter wants to focus on the further development of the Christian Catholic diocese and strengthen the parishes: "We know that some parishes are on the verge of collapse - be it financially, in terms of personnel or for other reasons." 

In addition, the training of clergy must be redesigned and volunteers strengthened. 

"We need to think about a model that takes our present as a yardstick and ask ourselves who we consider capable of serving in a spiritual ministry in a parish," says Bangerter.

The Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland has a good 12,000 members nationwide. 

Its cathedral church of St Peter and Paul is in Bern. 

The church came into being in the course of the Swiss Kulturkampf in the 1870s and was founded in 1875 with the constitution of the first national synod and the adoption of a church constitution. 

The church constitution is episcopal-synodal. 

The Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland is one of the founding churches of the Union of Utrecht of the Old Catholic Churches. 

In April, the Old Catholic Church of Austria elected Maria Kubin was the first woman to be elected bishop

Since 2022, all churches of the Union of Utrecht, with the exception of Poland, have introduced the ordination of women

In the same year the Christian Catholic Church also introduced "marriage for all".