Photo of the week: On earth as in heaven

Summary

Lode Van Hecke is the new bishop of Ghent, the first Trappist monk to ever take on the position in Belgium

‘Pleasantly surprised’

Lode Van Hecke lies on the ground to signify that he gives himself entirely over to his new post as the bishop of Ghent. The monk accepted the position and underwent his consecration ceremony last Sunday.

Van Hecke, 69, is an unusual choice as he has not led a church but served as a monk in the Orval Abbey in Wallonia’s Luxembourg province. He has lived and worked in the monastery for more than 40 years and has served as the abbot since 2007.

It is the first time that a Trappist monk has been ordained as a bishop in Belgium. “Many were surprised – pleasantly surprised, but still surprised – that Pope Francis appointed a monk as the bishop of Ghent,” said cardinal Jozef De Kesel during the ceremony. “But it is an old tradition in the church to entrust the ministry to a monk. … to share with others precisely what they have received from Christ through a life of silence and prayer, as a shepherd in the church.”

I never thought that I would leave Orval, but I have also always said that I would listen if the pope called on me

- Lode Van Hecke

The vast cathedral was overflowing with onlookers, including former queen Paola, federal minister Pieter De Crem and Ghent mayor Mathias De Clercq. The ceremony was also broadcast on a large screen in a nearby event hall so that more members of the public could follow it live.

According to De Kesel, Van Hecke found it “painful” to leave his monastery. “But the final decision lies with the pope,” Van Hecke told VRT. “We all know that Franciscus is full of new ideas. I never thought that I would leave Orval, but I have also always said that I would listen if the pope called on me.”

While he admits that leading a monastery and leading a bishopric are two different things, “what I now am called on to do I have learned on my journey here,” he said.

Photo ©Yorick Jansens/BELGA