Vatican blocks appointment of German university chief

Other News Materials 11 April 2008 22:09 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - The Vatican, which has a veto power, has blocked the appointment of a new chief executive at a Catholic university in Germany, the University of Eichstaett said Friday.

Without Rome's approval, Ulrich Hemel, 51, cannot take over the job. He was chosen by senior professors as president to run the college, which has 4,500 students and is the only Catholic university in the German-speaking world.

The papal university said opposition to Hemel, a layman who is both a Catholic theologian and business expert, had held up the clearance from the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, but Eichstaett had not been told who objected to Hemel or why.The disclosure has set off speculation that Pope Benedict XVI, who comes from Germany and formerly taught theology at Hemel's current school, the University of Regensberg, was personally opposed.

As Joseph Ratzinger, the current pope was a key force in establishing Eichstaett University in 1980. The university belongs to the church, but is funded by the Bavarian government. It has a second campus at Ingolstadt.

Hemel was selected in a 12-4 vote by the university board as president in late January and was to have begun the job on April 1.

His undergraduate career at the University of Mainz in Germany and in Rome spanned theology, business administration, sociology, philosophy and languages and he did doctoral and professorial studies at Regensburg where is now extraordinary professor of theology.

Hemel, who has three children, has worked on the side since 1991 as a turnaround consultant at failing businesses.

Officials said plans to formally induct Hemel on April 23, the day Ruprecht Wimmer retires from the post of president, had been cancelled. The vice-president of the university, Stefan Schieren, would run the 120-professor school in the interim.