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Archbishop Haas of Vaduz, LiechtensteinPhoto by Archdiocese of Vaduz

Pledge your prayers and fasting for protection of the Church during the Synod on Synodality HERE

(LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis accepted on Wednesday the resignation of the conservative Church leader of Liechtenstein, Archbishop Wolfgang Haas, while naming a heterodox interim bishop who has been described as Haas’ “polar opposite.”

The Holy See press office announced September 20 that the Pope accepted Haas’ resignation shortly after it was submitted, per Church custom, following his 75th birthday. 

The Archdiocese of Vaduz, based in the capital of the microstate of Liechtenstein, was created specifically for Haas in 1997 after a “breakdown of relations” within the Swiss Diocese of Chur, which previously included Liechtenstein. As John Allen Jr. noted in the National Catholic Reporter in 1999, Haas was known as a conservative, while Switzerland and its neighboring areas are marked by a “progressive brand of Catholicism.”

Haas met with heated resistance from local “progressive” Catholics since he was appointed coadjutor bishop in 1988 by Pope John Paul II, when a few hundred people laid down on the ground in front of the entrance to the cathedral in protest of his ordination.

An outspoken defender of Catholic Church teaching, Haas has recently distinguished himself among the world’s prelates by refusing to have the Archdiocese of Vaduz participate in the Synod on Synodality, which he said “runs the risk of becoming ideological” in his area. 

The Liechtenstein-based Association for an Open Church decided to hold their own synodal listening sessions instead, producing a report dismissed by Haas. The document reported that “a change in Catholic sexual morality” is “expected,” and that “Divorced people, queer people, [those living] in cohabitation,” and “people who repeatedly question the order of the church” are “perceived as excluded” from the Catholic Church.

In upholding Church teaching, Haas has been a firm defender of marriage in particular, having canceled a parliamentary Mass late last year in protest of the Liechtenstein Parliament’s passage of a bill legalizing same-sex “marriage.” He had previously protested that “such legal institutionalization is unacceptable for the Catholic Church, both for genuine reasons of common sense and for its doctrine of faith based on divine revelation.”

Earlier that year, Haas declined to attend an annual dinner event with the mayor of Schaan in protest of the mayor’s celebration of a “gay pride” event the day before.

The archbishop is also a supporter of the Traditional Latin Mass, having frequently ordained members of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

The Vatican shared Wednesday that the pontiff has named Bishop Benno Elbs, head of the neighboring Diocese of Feldkirch in Austria, as Vaduz’s apostolic administrator sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis (“the see being vacant and at the disposition of the Holy See”), who will lead the Archdiocese of Vaduz until the appointment of Haas’ successor, according to Catholic Church Vorarlberg.

In sharp contrast with Haas, Elbs is reportedly an advocate of married priests, female deacons, and the blessing of same-sex couples, and was described as Haas’ “polar opposite” by traditional Catholic blog contributor Mathew Hazell.

In a comment after his appointment, Elbs said, “We live in challenging times. It is up to us to shape these times. It is with this inner attitude that I would like to begin my service as apostolic administrator in the Archdiocese of Vaduz.”

“Pope Francis means nothing else when he wants to lead the Church on a synodal path: Traveling together, listening to one another, being there for one another, and looking to Christ,” he added.

Archbishop Haas said in a farewell message upon his resignation, “Looking back on my term of episcopal office, I am well aware of my personal inadequacies, indeed of many shortcomings and limitations. I humbly and trustingly leave the judgment on this matter to the mercy of the just Eternal Judge.” 

Haas shared that he plans on spending his retirement in “monastic seclusion.”

“This offers me an increased opportunity to continue to ask for God’s blessing and the special assistance of Mary, the main patroness of our archdiocese. I also promised this to the apostolic administrator appointed by the pope, Bishop Benno Elbs, to whom I wish a good reception and the success of his mission in this country,” Haas wrote.

“Together we want to pray fervently for a replacement pleasing to God for the vacant archbishop’s see of Vaduz,” he added.

In a September 15 letter to Elbs, Haas shared, “As has been the case for years, I will not give any interviews or participate in any media events (press conferences, etc.).”

Pledge your prayers and fasting for protection of the Church during the Synod on Synodality HERE