Village backs priest over lesbian couple blessing
By Malcolm Curtis
February 11, 2015
|View of Bürglen and its church. Photo: Switzerland Tourism|
A catholic priest in a traditional Swiss village under fire for blessing a lesbian couple has defended his actions and rejected calls from the church hierarchy for his resignation.
Wendelin Bucheli, a priest in the church of Bürglen in the canton of Uri, blessed the two lesbians back in October 2014.
But after the priest’s actions became known, the Bishop of Chur, Vitus Huonder, called on him to step down, indicating that his actions contravened Catholic doctrine.
A spokesman for the bishop said the priest’s behaviour had caused controversy internationally and upset many believers, the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper reported.
But the priest has received support from his congregration and residents of the village, who started a petition in his defence.
The preamble to the petition notes that Bürglen is the gateway to the Schachental.
“The Schächental is known for many things,” the petition says, according to the 20 Minuten newspaper in an online report on Wednesday.
“For the wonderful mountains with their romantic cable cars, its unique nature and world famous Klausen Pass (but) unfortunately the Schächental is also known for its narrow-minded inhabitants.”
But by Tuesday, more than 3,000 people had signed the petition in support of Bucheli.
“We stand behind priest Bucheli,” Peter Vorwerk, vice-president of the parish council is quoted as saying.
Christianity is based on charity so it is difficult to understand why the church should deny someone the blessing of God, he said.
Bucheli defended his blessing of the lesbians and said he would not submit his resignation.
He said it was his jobs as a “shepherd” to address the weak, the injured and the marginalized, he said in an interview with the Nueue Urner Zeitung published on Wednesday.
In a joint press release issued by the priest and the parish council, Bucheli reiterated that he wanted to stay in the village.
“I feel comfortable in Bürglen,” he said.
“My work is not finished and I see no reason to leave the community at this time.
The parish council has sought a meeting with Bishop Huonder, who has reportedly requested Bucheli to be transferred to western Switzerland.