10th February 2016, 19:00
In July this year, Gibraltar will have been without a Bishop for two years. According to a report from the Vatican, this is not so exceptional, with an increasing number of priests, worldwide, declining the offer to become bishops.
The appointment of Bishops is one of the ways in which the Bishop of Rome exerts influence over the life of the Church throughout the world. The process is not taken lightly, with dossiers compiled on the dioceses and the candidates. These are assessed in Rome with the Pope then taking a final decision. The chosen candidate is then asked if he accepts the post. At a press conference at the Vatican, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who leads the Congregation for Bishops, explained there were legitimate reasons sometimes preventing someone from becoming a Bishop, adding that many priests, particularly in the Western world, where the church is in decline, would prefer not to receive a mitre and crosier. The administrative pressure, public scrutiny and loneliness, he said, are too much for some.
In fact, the congregation offers a formation course to help those who take up the promotion with their new responsibilities. It includes advice on money matters, with the church saying that although Bishops don’t need to be financial experts, they must be able to see the holes in a ladder and ensure their diocese does not rack up an annual loss.
So with more demands placed on the role and with a greater degree of freedom for refusal, Gibraltar’s situation may now not appear to be so unusual. A spokesman for the Catholic Church told GBC the process was ongoing.