Pope faced many trials

The Pope waves to a crowd in Sion during a visit to Switzerland in 1984 Keystone Archive

The Pope visited Switzerland in June 2004, almost 20 years to the day after his first visit. Invited to attend a national Catholic youth event, he received an enthusiastic welcome.

This content was published on June 11, 2004 minutes

But the Pope's second visit revealed tensions in the Swiss Catholic Church, with some voicing their belief that the 84-year-old Pontiff should step down.

A group of 40 Swiss theologians issued an open letter in May 2004 calling on John Paul II to retire on the grounds of his old age and poor health.

Leo Karrer, a theology professor from Fribourg University, says the relationship between the Pope and the Swiss Catholic Church has at times been fraught.

"The Swiss have, due to their history, something against centralising tendencies and strong hierarchies, which is embodied in the Papal system," Karrer told swissinfo.

Rebel bishops

The Pope has also had to deal with several cases of rebel bishops, including that of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

The highly conservative archbishop disagreed with the reforms brought about after the Second Vatican Council, especially the abolition of the need to say the Mass in Latin.

In reaction, the French-born Lefebvre founded the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X in Ecône in canton Valais.

The affair culminated in 1988 after Lefebvre consecrated four bishops without the permission of the Pope, who subsequently excommunicated him.


In the 1990s, Switzerland’s relationship with the Vatican was again damaged by divisions over the conservative and authoritarian Bishop of Chur, Wolfgang Haas.

Many Catholics in Switzerland found Haas’ combative style and regressive ideas too provocative, and after ten years he was moved to the diocese of Vaduz in Liechtenstein.

The Swiss Catholic Church was rocked again in 1995 by the Bishop of Basel, Hansjörg Vogel, who announced, just 14 days after his appointment, that he had fathered a child.

The scandal triggered a countrywide debate on priestly celibacy.


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