Léonard is successor to Cardinal Danneels

Bishop André-Mutien Léonard will become Belgium's next Archbishop, succeeding Cardinal Danneels, who is 77 years old and wants to retire. An official announcement is expected to follow later today.

André-Mutien Léonard, who turns 70 this year, is currently the bishop of Namur, the largest diocese of Belgium. He is considered to be a very conservative bishop whose thinking is very much in line with that of Pope Benedictus XVI. He has been dubbed the 'Belgian Joseph Ratzinger'.

Léonard is controversial, but very intelligent and a good communicator. He speaks several languages, is very ambitious, is strict as a bishop and is popular with Belgium's Royal House.

The Belgian bishops were informed of the choice of Léonard to succeed Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the current Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels.

The official announcement of the appointment of Bishop Léonard as Archbishop must come from the Vatican, and is expected later today.

Two years ago Cardinal Danneels requested retirement, on his 75th birthday as is customary in the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Benedictus XVI asked the Belgian Primate to stay on a bit longer.

This enabled Danneels, as Archbishop of Belgium, be a celebrant during the canonization of Father Damien last year (photo) and the 450th anniversary of 'his' diocese: Mechelen-Brussels.

Last weekend Cardinal Danneels conducted a number of farewell masses in Brussels, Nivelles and Mechelen.