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The former Bishop of Chur Vitus Huonder is dead

Updated at 03 Apr 2024 4:50 pm

Vitus Huonder, Bishop Emeritus of Chur, died on Wednesday. He succumbed to a serious illness, as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X announced on its website. Huonder lived with the brotherhood at the Sancta Maria Institute in Wangs SG.

The 81-year-old Huonder was admitted to hospital in mid-March. The current Bishop of Chur, Joseph Maria Bonnemain, confirmed to the media at the time that he had visited Huonder there. Details of Huonder's illness were not disclosed.

The diocese of Chur was unable to comment on Huonder's death later on Wednesday afternoon. The diocese had only just found out about it itself, explained communications officer Nicole Büchel at the request of the Keystone-SDA news agency.

Following his retirement in May 2019, Huonder retired to the Sancta Maria Institute in Wangs in the canton of St. Gallen, which is run by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X. He no longer had anything to do with the diocese of Chur.

Polarizing bishop

As bishop, Huonder led the diocese from 2007 to 2019. In addition to Graubünden, Glarus (GL) and Zurich (ZH), the diocese comprises four cantons in Central Switzerland. The faithful in the diocese hoped that the Graubünden-born bishop would be willing to engage in dialogue and continue the reconciliation between the diocese and the regional churches begun by his predecessor Amédée Grab.

However, Huonder, who was loyal to Rome, surrounded himself with conservative officials and polarized people with his arch-conservative stance throughout his time in office. He risked another split in the diocese, as had already happened under Bishop Wolfgang Haas, warned people in Graubünden and Zurich in particular. In the meantime, the regional church of Zurich even tried to establish its own diocese, but without success.

Huonder caused particular outrage when he quoted passages from the Old Testament in a lecture in Fulda, Germany, according to which homosexuality is an atrocity punishable by death. The bishop initially spoke of a misunderstanding, later apologizing publicly. Even the Graubünden judiciary looked into the statements, but found no criminal conduct.

It is unclear why Huonder withdrew to the Sancta Maria Institute in Wangs, a boys' boarding school run by the traditionalist Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, after his retirement in April 2019. This has no longer been part of the Roman Catholic Church since 1975 and has repeatedly come into conflict with it.


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