Belgium Ecclesiastical Organization

The beginnings of the ecclesiastical organization in Belgium are due to the bishops of Cologne, who are credited with founding the bishopric of Tongeren, whose titular later moved to Maastricht (Traiectum ad Mosam) to escape the raids of the Huns, and in the century. VIII in Liège, where it still remains. To this and to those other institutions owed to the apostles of the Netherlands, among which St. Willibrord, the first bishop of Utrecht, is particularly famous, we must add the diocese of Tournai founded in the century. VI, but not long after and until 1146 united with Noyon under the same owner. However, in addition to these two bishops, the owners of the sees of Terouanne, Arras, Cambrai and the archbishops of Cologne and Reims also exercised their jurisdiction over these districts. For Belgium religion, please check

An ecclesiastical order proper to the Netherlands occurred when Philip II, at the suggestion of his father Charles V, requested and obtained from Paul IV, in 1559, a truly organic ecclesiastical arrangement of those districts. The whole region was then distributed in three ecclesiastical provinces, whose metropolises were Cambrai, Malines and Utrecht.

Cambrai was assigned as suffragans the newly created or remodeled seats of Arras, Namur, Saint-Omer and Tournai and this was, so to speak, the ecclesiastical province of the Walloon or French peoples. The province of Malines, established for the Flemish populations, had as suffragans the dioceses of Antwerp, Bois-le-Duc, Bruges, Ghent, Ruremond and Ypres. Utrecht, destined for Dutch populations, had as suffragan seats Deventer, Groningen, Haarlem, Leeuwarden and Middellburg. Liège, on the other hand, remained a suffragan of Cologne.

The time for the important and timely reform had been badly chosen; since if the legal system had strength and entered into implementation for the two provinces of Cambrai and Malines, it soon became a dead letter for the province of Utrecht. There, following the spread of the Protestant reform, which especially in those countries swept away all sorts of Catholic institutions, the bishoprics were almost immediately suppressed and confiscated.

The provinces of Cambrai and Malines themselves did not last, as they had been organized, until 1801; since in that year they succumbed to the fate common to the other dioceses of France, to which they had been incorporated, and underwent the changes desired by the Napoleonic concordat. By virtue of it Cambrai and Arras were made suffragan of Paris, while Saint-Omer was suppressed; Malines, instead preserved as a metropolis, had as suffragan seats in addition to the dioceses of Namur, Tournai, Ghent and Liège, also those of Aachen, Trier and Mainz, to which the latter had to give up after the Restoration. The bishoprics of Ypres, Antwerp and Bruges were then suppressed, except for the restoration of the latter in 1834.

Today Belgium constitutes a single ecclesiastical province made up of six dioceses, of which Malines is a metropolis and also takes the title of primatial see; while Bruges, Ghent, Liège, Namur and Tournai are suffragan seats.

The diocese of Eupen and Malmédy, created after the peace of Versailles, when that territory was aggregated to Belgium, and which had been united from the beginning with the diocese of Liège, had a short duration.

Belgium Ecclesiastical Organization

About the author