Alumnus Stephan Burger – the New Archbishop of Freiburg

Montag, 17. November 2014 | 

Schlagwörter »  |  Thema: englisch

Stephan Burger is the new Archbishop of Freiburg. He took over the helm of Germany’s second largest diocese, numbering almost two million Catholics, in June. Born in Freiburg in 1962, Burger studied theology and philosophy at the Universities of Freiburg and Munich. After his ordination he worked initially as a parish priest in the north Baden town of Rot. From 2004 to 2006 he completed a postgraduate program in Canon law at the University of Münster alongside his duties as a priest. He then headed the court administration of the Archdiocese of Freiburg as vicar general from 2007 to 2014. In June he succeeded Dr. Robert Zollitsch as Archbishop of Freiburg.

Erzbischof Stephan Burger. Foto: Erzbistum Freiburg
Archbishop Stephan Burger. Photo: Archdiocese of Freiburg

alumni’aktuell: Your grace, Archbishop Burger, you’re a real “Bobbele” (i.e., a Freiburg native). What do you like best about Freiburg?

Archbishop Burger: The Freiburg Cathedral naturally has a special place in my heart – an impressive house of God: People have been coming to the Cathedral of Our Lady for many centuries to pause and pray, to say praise and thanks to God or to appeal and lament before Him. With its central location in the middle of a large square in the old town, the cathedral is much more for me than a significant cultural monument.

alumni’aktuell: What are your best memories of your time as a student?

Archbishop Burger: Besides studying, I of course also learned to appreciate the whole atmosphere of the city: The times I spent with classmates are among my best memories, as are the times I spent with people at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Freiburg – far beyond the actual teaching.

alumni’aktuell: Where in Freiburg did you live when you were studying?

Archbishop Burger: At the Collegium Borromaeum, the seminary near the Freiburg Cathedral: When one feels one has a vocation for the priesthood, one needs a community in which this feeling can grow and mature. This was what I found at the seminary in Freiburg, which still had a very large community back then.

alumni’aktuell: Why did you decide to become a priest?

Archbishop Burger: Because a personal relationship with Christ has shaped, occupied, and fascinated me ever since my childhood. Even as a little boy, before my First Communion, the priest at my church allowed me to become an alter server: Ministry – performing a service for God, being completely there for God, is something that has accompanied me throughout my life. So I became a priest, to pass on the joyful message of our faith.

alumni’aktuell: You have served both as a minister and as a legal official for the Church in your career. Which function will influence your work as an archbishop most?

Archbishop Burger: I remain a minister to this day. That also goes for my role as a Church legal official. I don’t consider Canon law as being opposed to pastoral care – on the contrary: It serves pastoral care. And I also have that perspective in mind in my pastoral care as archbishop.

alumni’aktuell: How do you incorporate your motto “Christus in Cordibus,” “Christ in Our Hearts,” into your work?

Archbishop Burger: I see everything I do as falling within the context of this motto – including my contact with regular Church members. Christ is with those who follow Him and serve Him. He wants to help us make our lives good and successful. As a bishop, I am in the position to encourage a lot of people to keep this love for Christ in their hearts, to serve Christ, to live in their faith in Him, and to pass this faith on to others: That is the path to a fulfilled and happy life – with “Christus in Cordibus.”

alumni’aktuell: What will the main tasks of your term of office be?

Archbishop Burger: My most important tasks will be to preach the gospel, deliver the sacraments, and give pastoral care: to priests and to the faithful. I will need some time at the start to familiarize myself with my new duties as archbishop and to get to know the archdiocese and its challenges and opportunities better: I have therefore been doing a lot of traveling around, visiting congregations and discussing with the staff and volunteers there. I listen a lot and learn something interesting every day – like earlier at the university.

alumni’aktuell: There is a shortage of priests in the Archdiocese of Freiburg. What measures do you plan to take to deal with this problem?

Archbishop Burger: Besides praying for the ordination of more priests, it will surely – as in the past – be a matter of talking to suitable candidates. However, ordination is not something we can force.

alumni’aktuell: Last year the Archdiocese of Freiburg was in the news because the experts in adult pastoral care recommended taking a more forgiving stance toward divorced Catholics who have remarried. What is your position on this idea?

Archbishop Burger: This is not just about an idea but rather about people in a personal plight and situation. The problem is too complex to deal with in a few sentences here. The Synod of Bishops in Rome picked up the topic this year. I expect further impulses for finding adequate answers to the problems from the Synod of Bishops in the coming year.

alumni’aktuell: Do you have role models? Is there a saint or a committed individual who inspires you?

Archbishop Burger: First of all, the saint I am named after: Saint Stephen paid with his life for his belief in Christ. But there are also several other saints whom I think highly of and who have become important to me. Among others, there have been priests who influenced me and served as role models for me. And in concrete terms, I have always been impressed by people in my surroundings – with their attitude toward faith and their loyalty. I would rather not name any names here, but there are role models and many traces of God’s work to discover in our daily lives.

alumni’aktuell: Your grace, we wish you all the best in your new position.



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