Bishop of Reykjavik

 

Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as Bishop of Reykjavik on 30th October 2007.

Mgr Peter Bürcher, who was auxiliary bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg since 1994 residing in Lausanne, replaced Mgr Johannes Gijsen, of Dutch origin, who took his retirement. He is the sixth bishop of the Reykjavik diocese since the Reformation.

It is a young diocese which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2008. The Bishop of Reykjavik is part of the Bishops’ Conference of the Nordic Countries which at present has seven members covering Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Except for Norway, each country constitutes a Catholic diocese, and most of the church members are immigrants. There are only a few priests of local origin. This explains why the bishops often come from other European countries. For example the Bishop of Stockholm was born in the canton of Ticino. Thus Mgr Peter Bürcher is the second Swiss bishop appointed in Scandinavia.

The diocese of Reykjavik, which is two and a half times the size of Switzerland, covers an island of 103’000 km² with a population of about 300’000 inhabitants, of which there are slightly more than 10’000 Catholics spread throughout the country.

The first conversions to Christianity took place at the end of the 10th century. At present Iceland is the Nordic country which has proportionally the greatest number of Catholics. The Catholic Church in Iceland is young, dynamic and growing fast. An important event in the recent history of the diocese was the visit of Pope John-Paul II in 1989.

Within the Bishop’s Conference of Switzerland Mgr Peter Bürcher was responsible for the dicasteries and catechism, interreligious dialogue, lay movements, and the youth in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. He used to chair the Conference’s working party on Islam. He was also jointly responsible for the congregation on ecumenical dialogue. In this role he was part of the working Commission of the Christian Churches of Switzerland.

Mgr Peter Bürcher was appointed several years ago by Pope John-Paul II as a member of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches.

In his new episcopal mission at the service of the Catholic church in Iceland, Mgr Peter Bürcher will be able to make good use of his 36 years experience in Switzerland, in the diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg and his many contacts with Christians from far and wide. Within the Bishop’s Conference of the Nordic Countries Mgr Peter Bürcher is presently responsible for the dicastery on Justice and Peace and the Ministration of Migrants. Furthermore, he is in charge of relations with Christians in the Holy Land and the Middle East.