A new Belgian bishop is surprisingly giving thanks for beer for giving him a head start on his new responsibilities.

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Trappist monk and priest Lode Van Hecke was named this week by Pope Francis as the new Bishop of Ghent.

According to a Vatican biography, Van Hecke, 69, has degrees in philosophy and theology, has over forty years’ experience as a religious and has also served in the army as secretary to the head chaplain.

He’s also been abbot of the Abbey of Orval, in the south of Belgium, since 2007, and has had experience as secretary to the Abbot General of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance.

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Despite all Van Hecke’s background, there’s one other particular and unexpected job that he’s grateful for having had.

That’s the post, from 1998 to 2001, of the director of the famous Orval brewery, known the world over for its Orval and Petit Orval ales, some of the globe’s best suds.

“Fortunately I spent a few years in the factory, not for the beer, but because it was necessary to run a company”, Van Hecke told CathoBel.

Why it matters

Van Hecke will be consecrated as Bishop of Ghent on February 23 2020.

It will be the first time a Trappist monk enters the episcopate in Belgium, though around the world there are precedents of members of the famously strict order becoming bishops.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Trappist Edouard Mununu Kasiala is Bishop Emeritus of Kikwit, and in Norway, his Van Hecke and Kasiala’s brother religious Erik Varden is due to become Bishop of Trondheim early next year.

What’s next

Van Hecke is described by those who know him as a man of benevolent and discreet character, whose vision of the Church coincides with that of Pope Francis, CathoBel said.

Announcing his appointment Wednesday, cardinal archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels Jozef De Kesel also praised Van Hecke, and said he would contribute much to the diocese of Ghent.

“In a context where the credibility of the Church is undermined, it is fortunate that the Pope chose someone who lived outside the world, a man who led a truly Christian life following the Rule of St. Benedict”, De Kesel said.

More from Belgium on Novena:

Belgian laypeople push Pope for married priests

Cardinal De Kesel decries reduction of Europe to “soulless economic and financial project”