At a ceremony held yesterday evening at the Forum Internationale Wissenschaft (FIW) in Bonn, the Bishop of Antwerp was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Bonn in recognition of his hard work and dedication to the synodal process within the Catholic Church and to consolidating its teaching on marriage, the family and other forms of relationship. The major honor was conferred on him by Dr. Jochen Sautermeister, Professor of Moral Theology and Dean of the Faculty of Catholic Theology.
Bishop Bonny developed the idea of the Church as "a house and school for the community" in several publications on the family and the Church, which he wrote between 2014 and 2022 and for which he drew on his own pastoral experiences. He has expressed this concept further on a number of other occasions, most notably his open letter in the run-up to the 2014-2015 bishops’ synod entitled "Synode over het gezin, verwachtingen van een bisschop" ("Synod on the Family, Expectations of a Bishop") and the 2016 book that followed, "Mag ik? Dank je. Sorry..." (translated into English in 2021 as "Please? Thank you! Sorry..."), which was written in collaboration with moral theologian Roger Burggraeve, journalist Ilse Van Halst and others. The bishop made reference to these in his acceptance speech, which was entitled "Von Babylon nach Bonn" ("From Babylon to Bonn").
Bishop Johann Bonny supports a person-centered ethic in the Church and a pastoral approach that respects and integrates people rather than excluding or discriminating against them. He also rose to prominence in the context of the Church in Germany when he took part as an international observer in the fourth and fifth full meetings of the Synodal Way in September 2022 and February 2023 respectively. Anyone who knows Bishop Bonny will appreciate his theological expertise and consistency, his pastoral breadth and his own personal courage.
Bishop Bonny feels honored and acknowledged by having this signal accolade conferred upon him: "Especially because it relates to two pieces of writing where I didn’t know how they’d be received. I enjoy setting things in motion and consolidating existing knowledge by trusting the school of life. I like to use the image of the family: parents and grandparents should provide a place where all their children and grandchildren feel comfortable. It is precisely because all its believers are experiencing different circumstances that the Church should present itself as somewhere they feel safe, secure and at home in their diversity. This is a service performed for the benefit of unity. Only when we are conscious of this can there ever be renewal. This is why I dedicate this award to everyone who has shared their experiences and insights with me in recent years and to all those who, day in, day out, are working in families, parishes and chaplaincies to make judgments and reach decisions that are fair on all sides."