Roermond, the NetherlandsWhen Pope Paul VI appointed him bishop of Roermond in 1972, his appointment was seen as an attempt to bring the Dutch Church Province, with its image of being rebellious or modernistic, more in line with Rome.
Paul VI himself was the Principal Consecrator in Rome's St. Peter and he urged Cardinal Bernard Alfrink to be present as first Co-Consecrator. To Alfrink this was a personal humiliation, for one year before, in his speech at the ordination of bishop Simonis of Rotterdam (later: cardinal Archbishop of Utrecht Simonis) Alfrink had openly said that such a nomination should never happen again. Alfrink however went to Rome, being afraid that they would be all too willing to accept his resignation.
Bishop Gijsen replaced his staff with solid supporters. Soon, in 1974, Gijsen also opened up his own seminary in Rolduc, that delivered far more priests than all the six other Dutch dioceses and religious orders together. Gijsen was in his diocese and in the country known for his obstinate character.
Gijsen always had serious health problems. In 1993, he finally resigned, being only sixty years. His doctor urged him to do so, fearing for a collapse of his patient's intestines. Not long before his resignation, the seminary in Rolduc, the apple of his eye, was in the middle of a scandal: homosexuality, prostitution - a former and already ordained student told the press what happened inside the walls of the seminary. The professor involved was hastily transferred to a little parish in Austria. Gijsen did not link his resignation to this incident, only to his health.
Reykjavik, IcelandBut after a few years at the titular see as bishop of Maastricht, (Traiectum ad Mosam), Gijsen felt better. In Roermond, he was already succeeded by bishop Frans Wiertz but in Reykjavik, the diocese with its little priests for an enormous area, happened to be vacant for already two years, due to the rather sudden death of the American bishop, Alfred Jolson (aged 65).
Bishop Gijsen moved from the heavily Catholic Dutch diocese to Reykjavik, where the Catholic population is very small and rising solely due to immigration. Gijsen remained bishop in Iceland for another ten years. On October 30, 2007, the Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation from the pastoral government of the Diocese of Reykjavík, presented by Joannes Gijsen, in accordance with canon 401 § 1 of the Code of Canon Law. Since then the bishop lives in Valkenburg (Limburg) as a pastor of the Carmelitan Sisters. In Reykjavik, he was succeeded by the Swiss-born bishop Pierre Bürcher.