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Divided diocese Catholic minority seek to oust bishop

Liberal Catholics have taken to the streets to show their opposition to the bishop of Chur, Vitus Huonder. They say he pursues a policy of exclusion. Homosexuals and people who are divorced in particular feel targeted.

At a recent demonstration in St Gallen, protestors called for a more open Catholic Church. The protestors have written to the Swiss bishop’s conference asking for change.

Huonder was consecrated bishop in 2007. His spokesman says the alliance against the bishop wrongly accuses Huonder of excluding people. According to Huonder’s supporters, criticism of the bishop is in reality a criticism of Rome.

Since 1803 the Chur diocese in eastern Switzerland has been directly under the pope, rather than an archbishop. The diocese covers the cantons of Graubünden and Schwyz, Uri, Glarus, Obwalden, Nidwalden and Zurich.

The Roman Catholic church in Switzerland has two competing legal structures. One is the secular law governing church-state relations, the other is the church’s own canonical structure.

This dual structure, which exists only in Switzerland, means that each side has constraints on its powers. The way this plays out varies from canton to canton.

Already in the 1990s there were demonstrations in Switzerland over this fundamental conflict.


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