German bishops’ conference elects first female general secretary

Beate Gilles, the new general secretary of the German bishops’ conference. Credit: Schnelle/Deutsche Bischofskonferenz.

CNA Staff, Feb 23, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The theologian Beate Gilles was elected general secretary of the German bishops’ conference on Monday, becoming the first woman to hold the post.

She succeeds Fr. Hans Langendörfer, S.J., who held the office from 1996 until he stepped down in January.

Bishop Georg Bätzing, the president of the German bishops’ conference, welcomed the appointment on Feb. 23.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that Bätzing described her election as “an important day for the Church in Germany.”

He said: “I see this as a strong sign that the bishops are fulfilling their promise to promote women in leadership positions.”

Bätzing, the bishop of Limburg, described Gilles as a “profound theologian” with connections throughout the Catholic Church in Germany.

She has served since 2010 as head of the department for children, youth, and family in the Diocese of Limburg.

Gilles, who will take office on July 1, expressed appreciation for the work of her predecessor, Langendörfer. The German Church’s official website,, noted that while Langendörfer held the title of “secretary,” Gilles would be known as “general secretary” in accordance with Church law.

She said: “It is a challenging but also exciting phase for the Catholic Church in Germany. With the Synodal Way, something new has started. This process will enable me to quickly get to know the differentiated Catholic landscape.”

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