New head of Belgian Church says women’s ordination is ‘negotiable’

Bishop Jozef De Kesel of Bruges has been named by Pope Francis to succeed Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard as Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and the effective leader of Belgium’s Catholic Church. Ordained in 1972, Dr De Kesel is regarded as a protégée of Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who resigned in 2010 shortly before it emerged that he had attempted to persuade a survivor of sexual abuse against speaking publicly or pressing charges against the survivor’s abuser and uncle, Bishop Roger Vangheluwe.

The author of a doctoral thesis on the liberal German Lutheran theologian Rudolf Bultmann, Dr De Kesel has taught at a teacher-training centre at the University of Leuven and the seminary in Ghent. Auxiliary Bishop of Mechen-Brussels from 2002, before succeeding Dr Vangheluwe in 2010, he has called for a relaxation of celibacy for priests and said that women’s ordination is “negotiable”.