Originally Published in The CATHOLIC NEWS
The bishop’s seat at the Minor Basilica of Ss Peter and Paul in Paramaribo, Suriname, is now officially vacant, hopefully to be filled in the not too distant future.
Bishop Wilhelmus de Bekker turned 75 on April 27 and, as is mandatory, submitted his resignation letter to Rome. Papal Nuncio Archbishop Nicola Girasoli informed the bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference that the letter was accepted by Pope Francis.
Fr Antonius te Dorsthorst has been appointed to administer the diocese of Paramaribo in the interim, effective May 31. The announcement of an Apostolic Administrator was made at a press conference later that day. Bishop Emeritus de Bekker will not return to his native Holland but continue serving the diocese in Groningen, the capital town of the Saramacca District.
Fr te Dorsthorst was born on April 8, 1943 in Holland and was ordained a priest of the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) in 1970.
He arrived in Suriname in his early youth (before his priestly ordination) and has lived there since. His main apostolate has been among the indigenous and Maroon people of Suriname’s interior. He has been vice-provincial of the OMI community of Suriname for more than 25 years and has often attended the meetings of the Conference of Religious of the Antilles. Fr te Dorsthorst speaks Dutch, English and French and is fluent in the local languages of the Sranantongo, Saramaccan and Aucaan peoples.
He was formally installed last Sunday as Apostolic Administrator at a Mass at the Minor Basilica celebrated by Bishop Emeritus de Bekker.
According to the online edition of De Ware Tijd, Fr Te Dorsthorst – who said “I feel more Surinamese than Dutchman” – was surprised at his appointment since he is 71 years. He had expected the Vatican to appoint 55-year-old Vicar General Fr Karel Choennie. Fr Te Dorsthorst will work closely with Fr Choennie and Fr Esteban Kross during his tenure. – RS