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Jozef De Kesel (born 17 June 1947) is a Belgian prelate of the Catholic Church who has been a cardinal since 2016 and Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels since 2015. He served as Bishop of Bruges from 2010 to 2015.

His Eminence

Jozef De Kesel
Cardinal, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels
Primate of Belgium
Consistoire ordinaire public de 2016 - 1 (Jozef De Kesel).jpg
De Kesel at his elevation to the cardinalate at the consistory
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
Appointed6 November 2015
Installed12 December 2015
PredecessorAndré-Joseph Léonard
Other postsCardinal-Priest of Ss. Giovanni e Paolo
Ordination26 August 1972
by Leo-Karel Jozef De Kesel
Consecration26 May 2002
by Godfried Danneels
Created cardinal19 November 2016
by Pope Francis
Personal details
Born (1947-06-17) 17 June 1947 (age 72)
Ghent, Belgium
Previous post
Alma materCatholic University of Leuven
Pontifical Gregorian University
Motto"Vobiscum Christianus"
(With you, I am a Christian)
Coat of armsJozef De Kesel's coat of arms
Ordination history of
Jozef De Kesel
Priestly ordination
Date26 August 1972
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecratorGodfried Daneels
Co-consecratorsArthur Luysterman
Rémy Victor Vancotten
Date26 May 2002
Elevated byPope Francis
Date19 November 2016
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Jozef De Kesel as principal consecrator
Lode Aerts4 December 2016
Styles of
Jozef De Kesel
Coat of arms of Jozef De Kesel.svg
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal

Early lifeEdit

De Kesel was born in 1947 in Ghent. He entered the seminary in 1965, studied philosophy and theology at the seminary of Saint-Paul in Ghent and received his degree in Philosophy and Letters at the Catholic University of Leuven. From 1968 until 1972 he studied theology in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University, he gained first his license and then in 1977 his doctorate.

He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Ghent on 26 August 1972 by his uncle Leo, who served as auxiliary bishop of Ghent. While in Ghent he taught Religious Education at the diocesan secondary school in Eeklo (1974–1980), and provided courses in Religion, Philosophical Anthropology and Contemporary Thought at a training college for social work (1977–1980), before becoming professor of fundamental theology and dogmatic theology at the Major Seminary of Ghent (1980–1996) and at the same time, Professor of Theology at the Higher Institute of Religious Sciences in Ghent, where he was also Dean, professor of Christology at the Catholic University of Leuven (1989–1992), responsible for the formation of pastoral workers in Ghent (1983–2002), episcopal vicar for theological and pastoral training in the diocese of Ghent (1992–2002).


Pope John Paul II appointed him titular Bishop of Bulna and auxiliary of Mechelen-Brussel on 20 March 2002. He was consecrated on 26 May and appointed Vicar General for the vicariate of Brussels. In the Belgian bishops' conference he has been responsible for the inter-diocesan Commission for Pastoral Liturgy (Flemish and French) and a delegate to the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE).

After Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, reached retirement age in 2008, the Nuncio to Belgium, Archbishop Karl-Josef Rauber, recommended De Kesel to succeed him, a candidacy supported by Danneels as well. Pope Benedict XVI ignored Rauber's recommendation and De Kesel remained an auxiliary. The affair was recalled in later years as Pope Francis took a different stance, making Rauber a cardinal, moving De Kesel, and then making De Kesel a cardinal.[1][2]

On 25 June 2010, he was appointed bishop of Bruges after the early resignation of Roger Vangheluwe[3] and installed there on 10 July 2010.

In September 2010 De Kesel said: "I think the Church must ask itself the question of whether it is appropriate to keep the mandatory character of celibacy. We could say that there are celibate priests, but that people for whom celibacy is humanly impossible should also have the chance of becoming priests."[4]


On 6 November 2015 Pope Francis named De Kesel to succeed André-Joseph Léonard as Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and Primate of Belgium.[5] He was installed at a Mass attended by the Belgian monarch on 12 December 2015. [6]

Carl E. Olson of the Catholic World Report regards De Kesel as a theological liberal, noting his support of Cardinal Walter Kasper's proposal to allow couples who have divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion.[7] Christopher Lamb calls him "a moderate in comparison with his conservative predecessor". He noted that the Bishop of Antwerp, Johan Bonny, had called for the recognition of same-sex relationships, while De Kesel by contrast said that universal respect, no matter one's sexual orientation "is a value that the Gospel shares with modern culture."[8]

Pope Francis made De Kesel a cardinal in the consistory of 19 November 2016.[9]

On 23 December 2017 Pope Francis appointed De Kesel a member of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.[10][11]


  1. ^ Gagliarducci, Andrea (1 September 2019). "Five keys to interpreting Pope Francis' sixth consistory". Catholic News Agency.
  2. ^ de Souza, Raymond (21 January 2016). "Is Francis really against Benedict?". Catholic Herald. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
  3. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 25.06.2010". Holy See Press Office. 25 June 2010. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2010.
  4. ^ Waterfield, Bruno (21 September 2010). "Belgian bishops question whether priests need be celibate". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
  5. ^ "Jozef De Kesel: 'Kerk moet een open gemeenschap worden'". De Standaard (in Flemish). 6 November 2015. Retrieved 2 September 2019.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  6. ^ "Belgian Monarchs Attend Mass in Mechelen". Royal Hats.
  7. ^ Olson, Carl E. (9 November 2015). "New Belgium Archbishop: "Mercy" is "somewhat condescending...I like words like 'respect' and 'esteem'"". Catholic World Report. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
  8. ^ Lamb, Christopher (6 November 2015). "Moderate named new head of Catholic Church in Belgium". The Tablet. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
  9. ^ "Pope announces 17 new Cardinals in consistory". Vatican Radio. 9 October 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
  10. ^ "Kardinaal De Kesel krijgt nieuwe functie in het Vaticaan". De Standaard (in Flemish). 24 December 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2019.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  11. ^ "Resignations and Appointments, 23.12.2017" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 23 December 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2019.

External linksEdit

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Roger Vangheluwe
Bishop of Bruges
10 July 2010 to 6 November 2015
Succeeded by
Lode Aerts
Preceded by
André-Joseph Léonard
4th Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels
6 November 2015 – present
Primate of Belgium
6 November 2015 – present
Bishop of military ordinariate of Belgium
6 November 2015 – present
Preceded by
Edward Egan
Cardinal-Priest of Santi Giovanni e Paolo