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Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, May 31, 2014 / 08:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Father Stephan Burger, a priest of the Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau, was appointed archbishop of the same local Church, vacant since September, by Pope Francis on Friday.
“We are grateful to Pope Francis and are all glad that the time of waiting for a new archbishop is finally over,” Bishop Bernd Uhl, an auxiliary of Freiburg, said May 30. “We are able to choose Stephan Burger as a competent Pastor, one who knows our Freiburg archdiocese and its challenges very well.”
Fr. Burger, 52, is a native of Freiburg, and was ordained a priest of the archdiocese in 1990. He studied theology at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau, and received a licentiate in canon law from the University of Munster.
He served at several parishes, and in the tribunal, or canon law office, of the Archdiocese of Freiburg. From 2002 to 2006 he served as defender of the bond, and since 2006 he has been judicial vicar.
In these capacities at the diocesan tribunal, he has dealt with cases of couples seeking recognition of nullity in their marriages. He has said that in these cases he worked “to offer an opportunity for conversation to people in difficult situations after a failed relationship, in addition to the legal aspects. These people belong to our Church!”
He has also been canon of the cathedral chapter since September.
Fr. Burger’s brother, Tutilo, is a Benedictine monk and is abbot at the order’s abbey in Beuron.
Fr. Burger will be consecrated a bishop June 29 at the cathedral of Freiburg.
The Freiburg archdiocese is home to nearly 2 million Catholics, some 41 percent of the total population. As its archbishop, Fr. Burger will be assisted in his governance of the local Church by two auxiliaries, Bishops Michael Gerber and Bernd Uhl.
The archdiocese had been vacant since Sept. 17, when the resignation of Archbishop Robert Zollitsch was accepted, shortly after his 75th birthday.
During the vacancy, the archdiocese drew criticism for a draft document, concerning marriage, released Oct. 7 by its office of pastoral care.
The text of the document suggested that divorced and remarried Catholics can receive Holy Communion if they can show their first marriage cannot be reentered, if they repent of their fault in a divorce and if they enter “a new moral responsibility” with their new spouse.
The document also suggested priests might offer “prayer services” for divorced faithful entering into a new civil marriage.
The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Müller, responded by writing a letter on the matter to Archbishop Zollitsch, instructing that the document be “withdrawn and revised” such that “no pastoral directions are sanctioned” which oppose the teaching of the Church.
Archbishop Müller also published a lengthy essay in L'Osservatore Romano rebuking the archdiocese's document.
Also on May 30, Pope Francis appointed Fr. Jonas Okoye an auxiliary of the Diocese of Awka, in Nigeria; and Msgr. Paolo Giulietti an auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Perugia-Citta della Pieve, in Italy.