Pope Francis has accepted Belgian bishop Lucas Van Looy’s request to not be made a cardinal at a consistory in August. The bishop asked the Pope to dispense with his acceptance of the appointment after the Pope’s announcement of his intention to create Van Looy a cardinal provoked criticism that he did not always react vigorously enough against abuses in the pastoral relationship.
By Vatican News staff writer
Less than twenty days after the Pope announced his intention to create him a cardinal in a consistory on 27 August, Bishop Lucas Van Looy, bishop emeritus of Ghent, Belgium, has asked Pope Francis to exempt him from the cardinalate following the controversy caused by his appointment.
Statement from the Bishops’ conference
In a statement on Thursday, the Belgian Bishops’ Conference said that the announcement of the creation of Bishop Van Looy 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.”
“In order to prevent the victims of such abuses from being hurt again following his cardinalate,” the Bishops’ Conference statement explained, “Bishop Van Looy asked the Pope to exempt him from accepting this appointment. Pope Francis accepted his request.”
The president of the Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Jozef De Kesel, and all the bishops of Belgium “appreciate the decision of Bishop Van Looy” and “on this occasion, reiterate their commitment to continue imperturbably their fight against all forms of abuse in the Catholic Church in which the interest of the victims and their relatives always comes first.”
Bishop Van Looy
Bishop Lucas Van Looy was born in Tielen, Belgium on 28 September 1941. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco in 1961 and was ordained a priest on 12 September 1970.
He served as a missionary in South Korea during the 1970s and held leadership positions within the Salesians in the 1980s and 90s. In 2003, at the age of 62, he was appointed bishop of Ghent in northwestern Belgium. The Pope accepted his resignation as bishop of Ghent in November 2019, when the bishop was 78.
The bishop spoke before a Belgian parliamentary commission on sexual abuse in 2010 and on that occasion, said he was deeply ashamed about the sex abuse scandals that have shaken the Catholic Church in Belgium and around the world. The bishop also affirmed that the Church has a duty to report to authorities any suspicion of sexual abuse by members of the clergy.
In May, Pope Francis announced a list of twenty prelates and one priest who would receive the red hat at a consistory set for 27 August. Bishop Van Looy was one of five candidates aged 80 or older who would not be eligible to vote in a future conclave.