Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels

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Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels
Mechelen-Brussel (Dutch)
Malines-Bruxelles (French)
Mechelen Margareta voor Sint-Rombouts 02.jpg
Country Belgium
Territory Mechelen, the Brussels-Capital Region, Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant
Ecclesiastical province Mechelen-Brussel
Coordinates 51°1′48.4″N 4°28′43.6″E / 51.030111°N 4.478778°E / 51.030111; 4.478778Coordinates: 51°1′48.4″N 4°28′43.6″E / 51.030111°N 4.478778°E / 51.030111; 4.478778
Area 3,700 km2 (1,400 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2013)
2,815,842 [1]
1,801,000 (64%)
Denomination Roman Catholic
Rite Latin Rite
Established 12 May 1559
Cathedral St. Rumbold (Mechelen) (Primatial cathedral)
Co-cathedral St. Michael and Gudula (Brussels)
Patron saint Saint Rumbold of Mechelen
Secular priests 1966
Current leadership
Pope Francis
Metropolitan Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard
Suffragans Antwerp
Auxiliary Bishops Jean Kockerols
Jean-Luc Hudsyn
Leon Lemmens
Vicar General Etienne Van Billoen [2]
Emeritus Bishops Godfried Danneels Cardinal, Archbishop Emeritus (1979-2010)
Paul Lanneau Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus (1987-2009)
Jan De Bie Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus (1982-2002)
Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels
Territorial extent of the Archidiocese of Mechelen-Brussels
Source Annuario Pontificio 2007

Mechelen-Brussels is the Roman Catholic Primatial See in Belgium. It is also the name of the Ecclesiastical Province governed by the Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, which covers the whole of Belgium. The current Archbishop is André-Mutien Léonard, who was installed in January 2010.

Dual name[edit]

The addition of Brussels to the See's name is actually a fairly recent innovation, as part of a restructuring of the Belgian ecclesiastical province adapting to the socio-political reality of modern Belgium. Several new dioceses were created, largely corresponding to the secular provinces of Belgium at that point, thus more closely aligning the religious structure and administrative structure of the country. Most of the secular province of Antwerp (except the 'arrondissement', i.e. district, of Mechelen itself) was made into the Diocese of Antwerp. The resulting Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels consisted of the province of Brabant in addition to eight municipalities in the province of Antwerp, including Bonheiden, Duffel, Mechelen and Sint-Katelijne-Waver.

The province of Brabant was later split into three areas:

This was not followed by a new break-up into dioceses, but had actually been anticipated by the creation of three vicariates general, often with their own auxiliary bishop, to accommodate the three regional entities.

Such a dual name is not unique, compare for example Esztergom-Budapest, but usually that is just retaining the mere name of the former seat after a de facto full move.

Language issues[edit]

The name differs in the diocese's two languages; the Dutch name of the See is Mechelen-Brussel and in French, it is called Malines-Bruxelles. In English, Mechelen was traditionally rendered as Malines but nowadays usually Mechelen is maintained or changed into Mechlin. Both Brussel and Bruxelles' are 'Brussels'.


The duality of the Belgian archbishopric is also reflected in the rare fact that the archbishop has two active co-cathedrals: St. Rumbold's Cathedral in Mechelen and St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral in Brussels.


The Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels was historically primate of the whole of the Low Countries following the 1559 reorganization creating fifteen dioceses. Over time, the two other ecclesiastical provinces broke from Mechelen-Brussels' primacy. Cambrai was already in France and its kings managed gradually to annex French Flanders, and Utrecht and its suffragans in the Dutch republic (later kingdom) would long have their hierarchy suspended because the northern state was a champion of 'anti-papist' Calvinism.

The Napoleonic 1801 concordat re-drew the whole map again. The country is entitled to at least one cardinal (not a crown cardinal. Rome designates all Belgian bishops freely, in practice from among the Belgian clergy), but it has become a tradition for the incumbent to be raised fairly soon to the cardinal's red, even if there is still a predecessor alive and/or a Belgian cardinal abroad, say in the Roman curia.

Kings Albert I and Baudouin were devoutly Catholic. Other faiths have generally been numerically insignificant except amongst some of the growing immigrant communities in Belgium.

Archbishop André-Joseph Leonard succeeded Cardinal Danneels in January 2010, and will likely become a Cardinal himself. On Tuesday, February 22, 2011, Vatican Information Service (VIS) announced that Pope Benedict XVI had appointed Father Jean Kockerols of the clergy of the Archdiocese, dean of Brussels-South, Father Jean-Luc Hudsyn, of the clergy of the Archdiocese, episcopal vicar for Brabant Wallon (Brabante Vallone), and Father Leon Lemmens of the clergy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hasselt, Belgium, and an official at the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches of the Roman Curia, as Auxiliary Bishops-elect of the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels to Archbishop Leonard. Auxiliary Bishop-elect Kockerols was born in Brecht, Belgium, in 1957, and was ordained a priest in 1993. Auxiliary Bishop-elect Hudsyn was born in Uccle, Belgium, in 1947, and was ordained a priest in 1972. Auxiliary Bishop-elect Lemmens was born in Boorsem, Belgium, in 1954, and was ordained a priest in 1977.



External links[edit]