Pope Francis accepts Belgian bishop’s request not to be made a cardinal

Bishop Lucas Van Looy, S.D.B.. Bishop Lucas Van Looy, S.D.B., pictured at a Vatican press conference on the family synod, Oct. 23, 2015. | Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Pope Francis has accepted a Belgian Catholic bishop’s request not to be made a cardinal at a consistory in August.

Bishop Lucas Van Looy, the 80-year-old emeritus bishop of Ghent, was due to receive the red hat with 20 other churchmen in Rome on Aug. 27.

A June 16 statement from the Belgian bishops’ conference said: “The announcement of the creation of Mgr. Lucas Van Looy, emeritus bishop, as a cardinal has provoked many positive reactions, but also criticism that as Bishop of Ghent (2004-2020) he did not always react vigorously enough against abuses in the pastoral relationship.”

“To prevent victims of such abuses from being hurt again as a result of his cardinalate, Bishop Van Looy asked the pope to dispense with his acceptance of the appointment. Pope Francis agreed to his request.”

“Cardinal De Kesel and the bishops of Belgium appreciate the decision of Bishop Van Looy. They reiterate their commitment to continue their fight against all forms of abuse in the Catholic Church, in which the interests of the victims and their families are always at the forefront.”

Lucas Van Looy was born in Tielen, Belgium, on Sept. 28, 1941. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco in 1961. He was ordained a priest on Sept. 12, 1970.

During the 1970s, he served as a missionary in South Korea. In the 1980s and 90s, he held leadership positions within the Salesians.

In 2003, at the age of 62, he was named bishop of Ghent, northwestern Belgium. He was ordained bishop on Feb. 1, 2004.

Van Looy spoke before a Belgian parliamentary commission on sexual abuse in 2010. According to a contemporary report, he apologized to survivors of clerical abuse.

“As a human being, as a believer, as a priest, and as a bishop, I am deeply ashamed,” he said.

Another report said that commission members were surprised when he told them that he had not forwarded six letters related to abuse in his diocese to the authorities. He reportedly explained that the situation was “less pressing” because the priests concerned had retired.

Pope Francis personally appointed Van Looy as a delegate to the 2015 family synod.

The pope accepted his resignation as bishop of Ghent on Nov. 27, 2019, when Van Looy was 78, three years past the normal retirement age for diocesan bishops.

Pope Francis announced on May 29 that he intended to elevate Van Looy to the rank of cardinal.

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