Fr. Wendelin Bucheli, pastor of the parish church in Bürglen in the canton of Uri, Switzerland was dismissed for having blessed a “union” between two women.
Giuseppe Gracia, spokesman for Bp. Huonder, told the Zurich newspaper NZZ am Sonntag on February 8, 2015, that “a discussion had taken place with Fr. Bucheli” and that he had to leave his position before the summer.
Giuseppe Gracia also stated that the priest’s gesture had “caused considerable agitation in the region and scandalized many of the faithful”. According to the spokesman, the situation demanded a “clarification” in keeping with “the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family”; he explained that Bp. Huonder could not “remain passive with regard to such a scandal” and that he had “had no other choice than to dismiss the priest from his duties”.
For its part, a group opposed to the Bishop of Chur called “Es reicht!” (“Enough!”) protested against this decision in a press released posted on its website on February 9. The association considers that it is “abnormal to punish in this way a pastor who spoke out against the Church’s discrimination and stigmatization of persons in their concrete reality.”
The parish council in Bürglen, which had agreed to the blessing last October, held an extraordinary meeting to support its pastor, calling for a massive letter-writing campaign to the chancery in Chur. An online petition supporting Fr. Bucheli was also started on the Internet, collecting almost 40,000 signatures.
As for Msgr. Martin Kopp, the Vicar General for Central Switzerland, he pointed out on February 9 to the German-language media of the Swiss Catholic Church that he had not been consulted. “I hope that the final word has not been spoken,” he said. He spoke about Fr. Bucheli as an “exceptionally good, experienced priest who is respected by his parishioners”. A “good priest” who refuses at the same time to follow the Catholic catechism and, what’s more, is unwilling to obey his bishop, since, according to a report on February 11 in the Swiss daily newspaper Bote der Urschweiz, he declared that he saw “no reason at present to leave” his community. “I feel at home in Bürglen. My work here is not done.” Recalling that his parishioners are the ones who “shaped” the priest that he has become, Fr. Wendelin Bucheli assured the journalist that he will not submit his resignation. His faithful taught him “what it means to be a good shepherd,” he said. “They also taught me to read the Gospel with my heart.... They taught me what the word ‘solidarity’ means.”
The priest confirms that there is “mutual love and understanding” between him and his parishioners, and they the latter do not want to lose him. This is why he wants to “remain alongside them”.
He also claims that before the blessing, he referred to the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola on the discernment of spirits, asked the advice of other experienced priests and left it up to God’s inspiration. “Through my contemplative exercises, I learned to join myself with Christ and to incorporation that connection in my daily behavior,” he explains. “This is how I understand the Gospel, and this is how I acted.”
The rebellious priest also enjoyed the support of the Benedictine Abbey of Engelberg, in the canton of Uri. According to an article published on February 15 on the website of the German-language daily newspaper Walliser Bote, its Father Abbot, Fr. Christian Meyer criticized the decision of the Bishop of Chur and said that he hoped for an intervention by the Apostolic Nuncio. “The pastor’s action must be evaluated from the pastoral perspective,” he assured the reporter, since the blessing was a response to “a pious request”.
According to the German-language Swiss Catholic website, Fr. Bucheli’s situation might be clarified as a result of the next session of the Swiss Bishops Conference (SBC), which will be held in early March.
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