Bishop-designate Gerhard Wagner has asked Pope Benedict XVI to withdraw his nomination as auxiliary bishop of Linz, in the face of fierce criticism. The uproar stemmed mainly from comments Wagner made implying that Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was a punishment from God for sins committed in New Orleans. The diocesan bishops of Austria issued a statement saying they supported Bishop-designate Wagner’s request to withdraw, although they also reaffirmed their belief that it is best for the church that the pope appoint bishops. If a bishop were to be elected by the faithful at large, they said, “conflicts would be inevitable.” The bishops also said, however, that the canon law procedure for choosing a bishop, which calls for consultation with other bishops, priests and lay leaders, is important. “The procedure provided for in canon law for the selection and the examination of candidates [for the office of bishop] has proved its worth, if this procedure really is followed,” they said.

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