On October 28, Pope Benedict XVI appointed 45-year-old Franz-Josef Overbeck as the Bishop of Essen, Germany. Bishop Overbeck was ordained a priest by Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, has survived a bout with cancer, and is now the youngest bishop in Germany.
Bishop Overbeck, previously the auxiliary bishop of Münster, told Bild.de, “I was having breakfast in Rome when I received the call that I had been selected to be the next bishop of Essen. I immediately said yes, and then I finished my breakfast.”
When asked if he had any role models, Bishop Overbeck cited his parents, whose faith had quite an influence on him. Overbeck said he also admired Pope Paul VI, who “guided the church through a very difficult political and social phase.”
Describing himself as “a bishop, who has his worries, but loves the Church,” Bishop Overbeck said that some of the most important events in his life have been his ordination as priest and as bishop, as well as his battle with cancer, its treatment, and “the fact that I defeated it.” Asked if he is afraid it will come back, he responded, “I am not a man of fear. I have come to terms with the finiteness of life. If the cancer comes back, then it is a new sickness.”
On a lighter topic, Bild.de asked Bishop Overbeck about his daily life, where he buys his socks and underwear. “I used to shop in Münster. Now I will be shopping in Essen. I do all my clothes shopping in a very concentrated manner, twice a year. When I go to a department store, it is very awkward for me, because so many people recognize me, “ he said.
When asked about his future diocese, Bishop Overbeck told Bild.de, “The Diocese of Essen is a mirror image of the shaken Ruhr district.”
“There are many people who believe, and this faith carries the Church. My task as bishop is to see that the people gladly go to Church, and that they believe gladly.” Essen is located within Ruhrgebeit, a zone in northwestern Germany whose now faltering economy was once driven by mining.
At his first press conference in Essen, Bishop Overbeck said that all of the concerns of diocese—the lack of work, the separation of families, the mass emigration of the youth—are very present to him. His mission in ministering to the diocese's 909,000 Catholics is “to help people to be able to find God.”