Bishop of Utrecht

From Academic Kids

The origin of the Diocese dates back to 695 when St. Willibrord was consecrated bishop of frisians at Rome by Pope Sergius I, and with the consent of the frankish ruler, he settled at the market-town of Utrecht. After Willibrord's death the diocese suffered greatly from the incursions of the frisians, and later on of the normans. Better times appeared during the reign of Saxon emperors, who frequently summoned the Bishops of Utrecht to attend the imperial councils and diets. In 1024 the bishops were made Princes of the Holy Roman Empire and the new prince-bishopric of Utrecht was formed not only the present day Dutch province of Utrecht, but also the provinces of Groningen, Drenthe, and Overijssel. In 1122, with the Concordat of Worms, the emperor's right of investiture was annulled , and the cathedral chapter received the right to the election of his bishop. It was, however, soon obligated to share this right with the four other collegiate chapters which existed in the city. The Counts of Holland and Geldern, between whose territories the lands of the Bishops of Utrecht lay, also sought to acquire influence over the filling of the episcopal see. This often led to disputes and consequently the Holy See frequently interfered in the election, and after the middle of the fourteenth century repeatedly appointed the bishop directly without regard to the five chapters. In 1527, the Bishop sold his territories to Emperor Charles V and the principality became part of the Habsburg dominions; the chapters voluntarily transferred their right of electing the bishop to Charles, and Pope Clement VII gave his consent to the proceeding. In 1559 Utrecht was raised to the rank of an archdiocese and metropolitan see with six suffragan dioceses, but this new ecclesiastical assett had not a long existence. When the northern provinces of the Netherlands revolted, the archdiocese fell, with the overthrow of the Spanish power. According to the terms of the Union of Utrecht, the rights and privileges of the Roman Catholic religion were guaranteed, but on June 14, 1580, the practice of that religion was forbidden by the magistrates of Utrecht, and the Cathedral of Saint Martin was taken from the archbishop and his Chapter; in truth the Government of the United Provinces was unable to control the extremists. On August 25, 1580, Archbishop Schenk died, and two successors appointed by Spain did not receive canonical confirmation, neither could they enter their diocese. The See remained vacant until 1602, when the place of Archbishop was taken by the apostolic vicars of the Dutch Mission (Hollandse Zending), who, however, were generally driven from the country by the States-General and forced to administer their charge from abroad. These vicars were consecrated as titular Archbishops in order not to offend Dutch Government, but with the condition that he might assume the real title of Archbishop of Utrecht when circumstances would permit. During the last period of the apostolic vicariate, jansenism and gallicanism spread among the clergy and vicar Petrus Codde was suspended by the Pope, who accused him of being a jansenist. He continued as Archbishop and remained out of Communion with the Papacy. After his death the majority of the diocesan clergy continued to claim the right to elect its own bishops. Having obtained the permission of the dutch government, in 1723 the chapter elected a new archbishop, who was not confirmed and excommunicated by Pope Benedict XIII. This was the beginning of what would become the Old Catholic Church. All the Old Catholic Archbishops until 1858, notified their election to the Popes. Nevertheless, in 1853 the Holy See re-established its own hierarchy in the Netherlands, unofficially called the "New Catholic Church". At present the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Utrecht, often a Cardinal, is the Primate of Netherlands and the Metropolitan of a province with six suffragans.

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