When the news broke yesterday that the name of the new bishop of Rotterdam would be announced at noon today, the rumour mill started to turn. And in all those rumours, speculations, and (semi-) educated guesses, one name kept popping up more than any other: that of Msgr. Hans van den Hende, the bishop of Breda. And, indeed, his was the name announced at the start of the afternoon.

The official portrait of Bishop van den Hende, as used on the website of the Diocese of Breda

A bishop moving from one diocese to the next, while not unheard of, is a fairly rare occurrence in the Netherlands. In the recent past we’ve only had Bishop Eijk who moved from Groningen-Leeuwarden to become archbishop in Utrecht. The reasons why it happens now may be myriad, but the fact that it involves the youngest bishop of the Netherlands (Msgr. van den Hende is 47), who has only helmed Breda for a little over four years, may be seen as a vote of confidence from Rome.
 
When he started in Breda after a year of being coadjutor bishop under Bishop Muskens, Bishop van den Hende gave the impression of a man who had a job to get on with. Never one for sensationalism, budget cuts or massive overhauls of diocesan programs, the Groningen-born bishop had a job to do, and he intended to get it done. Well, that job has now been replaced by a similar job in a larger and far more urban diocese. The effects of northern sensibility in the rapidly developing industrial west may surprise us.
 
Before all that becomes clear, the Diocese of Rotterdam will officially receive its new bishop on 2 July, the installation date, in the cathedral of Saints Lawrence and Elisabeth.

Bishops van den Hende (2nd left) and Van Luyn (2nd right) during the press conference today

 
During the press conference earlier today, Bishop van den Hende spoke about having to leave Breda after only a few years. He called it “a step in faith”.
 
“Saying yes in faith as a deacon, priest and bishop, are extensions of each other. I said that during the press conference on 9 September 2006, when I began in Breda. That the road of your vocation keeps demanding new steps becomes abundantly clear now that I accepted the pope’s request to become bishop of Rotterdam. This new ‘yes’ is also an extension of the first. When you start somewhere as bishop it is a prerequisite to perform the pastoral task you have received with all your heart.”
 
Finally, the Dutch bishops’ conference released the following statement:
 
“The Dutch bishops are grateful and pleased with the appointment of Msgr. van den Hende as bishop of the Diocese of Rotterdam. The bishops congratulate their colleague, who is now bishop of Breda, with this appointment and look forward to continuing the good collaboration.
We know Msgr. van den Hende as a modest and congenial man who works with much dedication, loyalty and involvement in his Diocese of Breda. We are convinced that he will continue his service to the Lord and His Church fruitfully in the Diocese of Rotterdam. We therefore congratulate the Diocese of Rotterdam wholeheartedly with this appointment.
We also congratulate Msgr. van Luyn with the appointment of Msgr. van den Hende.
The Dutch bishops  realise that the faithful of the Diocese of Breda, after only five years, have to bid farewell to Msgr. van den Hende.”
 

Photo credit:
[1] Raymond Mangold
[2] Geertje Algera

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