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Recently, it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI would be penning a children’s book called ‘The friends of Jesus’. In it, he is said to focus on the relationship of fourteen men with Jesus. Yes, men. The fourteen are the twelve original Apostles, St. Matthias who went to replace Judas in the twelve, and St. Paul who, while never part of the twelve, is generally considered an apostle all the same.

Following the release of this little news item certain people have gotten into a huff about the fact that the book only deals with men. “Surely, they say, women were also Jesus’ friends? So why are they not in the book? It must because the pope doesn’t like or is afraid of women.” That is a basic summation of their logic.

In the first point they are correct. There is enough Scriptural evidence that Jesus’ followers included both men and women, and some women indeed had a notable relation to Christ. The Blessed Virgin in the first place, of course, but also St. Mary Magdelene, and the other women who were present at the Crucifixion. But the pope doesn’t write about them. Why not?

The answer seems straightforward when one considers the aforementioned list of men. They are the Apostles. The Apostles are a very clearly identified group of men. Like it or not, the fact remains that there was not a woman among them.

“But women were also Jesus’ friends”, the masses clamour. Yes, and here we have the core of the problem. The term ‘friend’. It’s somewhat simplistic term to refer to the actual relationship that Jesus had with the Apostles. For a children’s book it’s use is understandable, of course, and we shouldn’t read to much into that, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Back to the problem of the term ‘friend’. There seems to be something of a consensus that Jesus and the Apostles were friends, mates, who met up for meals and conversation, maybe a party here and there, and nothing more. That idea limits the person of Christ to the strictly human; he becomes nothing but a good and nice man, who had some clever things to say. He was good, he had smart things to say, of course, but He was much more than that. Christ, after all, is God. And the Apostles knew that, although it took them a while. Christ is God, He brings salvation to all, and that fact must have coloured the relationship between Christ and the Apostles. They were much more than friends. He was their Lord and Saviour, and they in their turn were tasked with very specific and special duties in the Church He established.

Of course, He was also the Lord and Saviour of the women He knew, like He is to everyone who ever lived and will live. But the aforementioned tasks given to the Apostles made their relationship, the ‘friendship’ unique.  Selecting them as the group to focus on a  book is quite understandable. That is not a matter of ignoring the women in the life of Jesus and the women in the Church of today, but the complete opposite: the acknowledgement of the ‘friendship’ of Christ with His apostles.

In writing any book, an author must make choices. The pope could have taken a random selection of people to describe in his book, but he didn’t. He chose a specific group, the people who were closest to Christ in His active ministry here on earth. And as I said, calling them friends is correct but incomplete. It is, however, understandable for a children’s book which deals chiefly with getting to know Christ as someone near to us, as a friend. That can be the basis for further development of our relationship with Him. Seems like a fairly good place to start for children.

Politics and gender issues are misplaced and misguided in this and many other cases.

About this blog

I am a Dutch Catholic from the north of the Netherlands. In this blog I wish to provide accurate information on current affairs in the Church and the relation with society. It is important for Catholics to have knowledge about their own faith and Church, especially since these are frequently misrepresented in many places. My blog has two directions, although I use only English in my writings: on the one hand, I want to inform Dutch faithful - hence the presence of a page with Dutch translations of texts which I consider interesting or important -, and on the other hand, I want to inform the wider world of what is going on in the Church in the Netherlands.

It is sometimes tempting to be too negative about such topics. I don't want to do that: my approach is an inherently positive one, and loyal to the Magisterium of the Church. In many quarters this is an unfamiliar idea: criticism is often the standard approach to the Church, her bishops and priests and other representatives. I will be critical when that is warranted, but it is not my standard approach.

For a personal account about my reasons for becoming and remaining Catholic, go read my story: Why am I Catholic?

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Netherlands License.

The above means that I have the right to be recognised as the author of both the original blog posts, as well as any translations I make. Everyone is free to share my content, but with credit in the form of my name or a link to my blog.

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Over the years, my blog posts have been picked up by various other blogs, websites and media outlets.

A complete list would be prohibitively long, so I'll limit myself to mentioning The Anchoress, Anton de Wit, Bisdom Haarlem-Amsterdam, The Break/SQPN, Caritas in Veritate, Catholic Culture, The Catholic Herald, EWTN, Fr. Ray Blake's Blog, Fr. Z's Blog, The Hermeneutic of Continuity, Katholiek Gezin, Katholiek.nl, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, New Liturgical Movement, NOS, Protect the Pope, Reformatorisch Dagblad, The Remnant, RKS Ariëns, Rorate Caeli, The Spectator, Vatican Insider, Voorhof and Whispers in the Loggia.

All links to, quotations of and use as source material of my blog posts is greatly appreciated. It's what I blog for: to further awareness and knowledge in a positive critical spirit. Credits are equally liked, of course.

Blog posts have also been used as sources for various Wikipedia articles, among them those on Archbishop Pierre-Marie Carré, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Archbishop Sergio Utleg and Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki.

Latest translations added:

IN PROGRESS

[Dutch] Internationale Theologencommissie - Sensus Fidei in het Leven van de Kerk.

30 June: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Boodschap voor het Katholieke Jongerenfestival.

19 June: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Interview in La Vanguardia.

18 May: [English] Pietro Cardinal Parolin - Homily at the consecration of Archbishop van Megen.

15 May: [English] Ane Hähnig - Interview with Michael Triegel.

3 May: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Boodschap voor de Wereldgebedsdag voor Roepingen 2014.

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Sancta Maria, hortus conclusus, ora pro nobis!

Sancte Ramon de Peñafort, ora pro nobis!

Pope Francis

Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province of Rome, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the Servants of God

Bishop Gerard de Korte

Bishop of Groningen-Leeuwarden

Willem Cardinal Eijk

Cardinal-Priest of San Callisto, Metropolitan Archbishop of Utrecht

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