Bishop Charles Morerod, O.P., of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg./ Alain Volery via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).
A Swiss Catholic bishop has announced that he is appointing lay people in place of episcopal vicars in his diocese.
Bishop Charles Morerod, O.P., who has led the Diocese of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg since 2011, revealed the decision in a May 25 interview with the Swiss Catholic Church’s website kath.ch.
He said that he had chosen two lay people and a deacon as his “lay representatives,” replacing three episcopal vicars.
“By virtue of baptism, lay people have an active role in the life of the Church and should not only take care of administrative matters, but also be active in pastoral care,” he said.
“This cooperation is a positive thing. It already exists, but we can further develop it positively.”
CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that the three vicariates concerned will now be known as “diocesan regions.”
According to the bishop, his representatives will take care of “local issues” and discuss them with him at the diocesan level.
The Code of Canon Law, the body of ecclesiastical laws for the Latin Church, says that “In each diocese the diocesan bishop is to appoint a vicar general to assist him in the governance of the whole diocese.”
The bishop can also appoint one or more episcopal vicars, whose competence “is limited to a determined part of the diocese, or to a specific type of activity, or to the faithful of a particular rite, or to certain groups of people.”
Morerod, who has served as rector of the Angelicum in Rome and secretary general of the International Theological Commission, told kath.ch that he had consulted with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy about the changes.
He said: “I spoke to it mainly about terminology issues. You are careful to avoid the impression that we are simply replacing a priest episcopal vicar with a lay episcopal vicar.”
“It is important not to cause any confusion that could affect you elsewhere. It is therefore important to consult the congregation.”
In a May 26 interview with kath.ch, the 59-year-old bishop rejected suggestions that the changes were intended to concentrate power in his hands, undermining the principle of subsidiarity favoured in the Swiss Catholic Church.
“Anyone who speaks this way has false assumptions about lay people in leadership positions,” he said.