News from Europe

Contrary to canon law, a woman will act as an episcopal vicar in Switzerland

In Switzerland, a woman will take over the duties of episcopal vicar. This unusual act will take place in the Dioceses of Lausanne, Geneva and Freiburg.


According to the diocesan authorities, on the 1st of August, the duties of the episcopal delegate for the German-speaking part of the episcopate will be taken over by Marianne Pohl-Henzen, who has so far managed the diocesan pastoral ministry. This means that she will take over the duties of Fr. Pascal Marquard, who has been an episcopal vicar in the diocese since 2017.

The Code of Canon Law requires that the episcopal vicar, like the vicar general, be a priest.

“A vicar general and an episcopal vicar are to be priests not less than thirty years old, doctors or licensed in canon law or theology or at least truly expert in these disciplines, and recommended by sound doctrine, integrity, prudence, and experience in handling matters.” (Canon 478.)

For this reason, the head of the diocese, Bishop Charles Morerod, used a legal manoeuvre: although Pohl-Henzen will do the same thing as a bishop’s vicar, she will not formally receive this title.

Earlier, the same happened in the German Diocese of Münster, where a woman was entrusted with the duties of Dean. This is also prohibited by the Code of Canon Law. The local Bishop Felix Genn appointed the woman de jure as the Bishop’s representative, although he de facto entrusted her with the duties of Dean.

In German-speaking countries, women have been receiving more and more managerial positions in recent years. This is part of a broad strategy of building so-called “equality.”


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