New Catholic bishop named for Iceland

Bishop Pierre Burcher of Switzerland was recently named the new Bishop of Iceland and in order to prepare for his new position, the Bishop is studying hard in the hopes of mastering the Icelandic language.

The new leader for the Diocese of Reykjavik was named by Pope Benedict XVI to succeeded Bishop Joannes Gijsen who resigned due to old age. Previously working as an auxiliary bishop of Lausanne and Freiburg, in Switzerland, the Bishop Burcher says he has already started studying the language.

Lausanne and Freiburg are Burcher’s home diocese. He was ordained there in 1971 and is a member of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches.

“I knew I was being prepared for something, but I never would have expected this appointment,” Burcher said. “I welcome it in trust and abandonment to Christ the Good Shepherd. I’m happy and completely calm.”

According to Burcher, Catholics are essentially immigrants to the Nordic countries. Due to their low population, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Iceland make up one Catholic diocese. Because Catholics are so few in number, there are not many local priests and even fewer local bishops.

“I’m happy to discover the Church in Iceland and in the Scandinavian countries. As a shepherd of everyone, I will be an immigrant bishop among immigrants,” he said.

Iceland has a total population of 300,000 people, of which only two per cent are Catholic.