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Cardinal Péter Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest in Hungary, Relator General of the upcoming Synod of Bishops, but today in the first place president of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) had some choice words to say in order to describe the need for Christ in Europe. The full text of his greeting to Pope Francis is available here.

péter erdöHoly Father, Europe needs Christ! Today when a lot is said about the economic crisis, we know that even before Europe was suffering a crisis of humanity and the lack of hope and a perspective on life, which only God can give.

Our very aged society, which focuses more on individualism than on the family, which looks to the world just with the eyes of the economy, reducing everything to profit and usefulness, which has difficulty in welcoming nascent life, the elderly or the disabled, this our European society studded with so many existential margins and disorientated in the search for what is good, true and beautiful, needs Jesus. Our compatriots, even when they are not aware of this, need to find the living and vibrant Jesus Christ in the life of the Church, His Body and His Family.

How many times is the Church really the only reality which remains present and close to the poor, to the elderly, to the pregnant and abandoned mothers, to the young people who are perhaps seeking, but without great hope, meaning for their lives? And we want to be more present! But if faith is lacking, on what will our presence be based?  (Cfr. Matt 5:13-14)”

In the run-up to the Synod, the presidents of the European bishops’ conferences are in Rome for their plenary meeting, which has “the family and the future of Europe” as its theme. Most conference presidents were present, although some had sent delegates. For some reason Cardinal Wim Eijk did not attend, nor was a delegate of his listed among the participants. Cardinal Eijk will, however, be in Rome for the Synod. But a permanent Dutch presence in the CCEE is assured by its Vice Secretary General, Father Michel Remery, a priest of the Diocese of Rotterdam.

kasperCardinal Walter Kasper has come increasingly under fire from fellow cardinals and others in the Church for his comments about marriage, divorce and Communion. While some are concerned by these visible disagreements, and Cardinal Kasper himself having even suggested that his critics are personally attacking him and Pope Francis, this really is simply what Pope Francis has said he wanted: open and free discussion about the topics that the Synod will devote its time to next month. And while I usually don’t want to commit myself to stark distinctions between left and right, orthodox and liberal, in this discussion it really does seem that those who want the Church to change or loosen up her teachings are honestly insulted by those who disagree.

In an interview for Vatican Radio, Cardinal Kasper commented on the situation. I have translated some of his answer which I think are most interesting in this context.

“Of course everyone has the right to publicly state their opinion. Nothing can be brought against that. But I wonder if the entire Synod is not being reduced to a single point. It is about the pastoral challenges in the context of the new evangelisation. That is far broader field. An insider problem is being place at the centre here. What matters is to be able to speak again and discuss the beauty and the Christian understanding of the family, which many today no longer know – it is about far more fundamental problems than simply this one. And secondly: what sort of understanding of the Gospel is this? It is the Good News. One can’t turn it into just a legal codex alone and then say that there can be no discussion about this point anymore. That makes the Synod a joke. Nobody has the right to say in advance what is possible and what is not. The Pope wants an open discussion, and that should be held. Then, in the Synod, to listen quietly to one another, in an atmosphere of prayer, and the in the end make a decision for the good of the faithful. I will not enter into polemics.”

“Without doubt the family is the cell of society and the cell of the life of the Church. In the family, in marriage and family, life and faith come closest together. It is an essential reality of life which has been raised to the glory of a sacrament. In that way it is a very vital and central issue for the Church to stand for marriage and family and offer solutions for the crisis that exists today. It is about these pastoral challenges, which is the theme of the Synod, not a war of doctrine. Of course, pastoral care is impossible without being oriented on the truth. But the truth is not an abstract system, but in the  end it is Jesus Christ in person, and we need to bring the people close to Christ. In that sense the Synod must be oriented on the truth and understand  Tradition as a living and bubbling spring and not as a rigid system.”

“I have posed a question, not simply suggested a solution. And I posed that question in agreement with the Pope. That’s very important for me. I asked, “When a marriage has failed one should do everything to repair it. But when there is no way back, when someone has entered into a new relationship which is, humanly speaking, a happy one, lived in a Christian fashion, when there are children, one can’t give up this new relationship without serious consequence. And we must also see how God offers new chances – and God does. That is His mercy, that He does not let go of anyone of good will. And everyone does what he can in their situation. And I think that this should be pastorally clarified in every individual case, after a period of orientation. That is called the ‘Via poenitentialis’ – but those involved suffer enough already without it. They do not need to perform great acts of penance. But a new orientation is necessary. That should be the sacrament of penance – that is why we have it – and the sacrament of penance also means re-admission to the Eucharist. But as I said, that is not the solution for all cases, presumably for a minority of all people who live in our communities, who suffer from it and have an honest desire for the sacraments, who urgently need the sacraments to deal with their difficult situations.”

In general it is hard to disagree with much of what the cardinal says. He is very right that the entire Synod is indeed being reduced this single topic (and his perceived opponent Cardinal Burke recently said the exact same thing). His words about the importance of family and the Church’s  defense of and communication about it are also very important, as are his concerns for those who are involved in a good, Christian, loving second relationship while their first marriage is still canonically valid. There is a problem there, but  not with the quality of the second relationship.

And that’s were the problem of the discussion lies. Too many people shift the focus to those second relationships and how the mean Church wants to destroy them and the happiness of those involved. That is a clear untruth. The fact remains that a marriage is a sacrament, and therefore something that can’t be broken by human hands (we simply need to listen to Christ’s words: “What God has joined, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:9)). So when a marriage exists (we’re looking at pure existence here, not quality), there can’t be a second marriage next to it. This is, in essence the basis of the argument. All discussion and, indeed, pastoral care needs to be built on it. And at the latter the Synod will look in detail.

Cardinal Kasper’s mistake, in my opinion, is that he sweeps aside this basis when he says, “One can’t turn [the Gospel] into just a legal codex alone and then say that there can be no discussion about this point anymore. That makes the Synod a joke. Nobody has the right to say in advance what is possible and what is not.” There must be discussion, certainly, for the good of the faithful. But there are also parameters, which are set by Christ. If we want to follow Him, we must accept and work within His parameters. The Codex of Canon Law is the result of centuries of understanding these parameters and translating them for a host of situations, places and times. There must always be such development, and in that sense the law can change. But it can not be overwritten, swept aside or corrected as if what was once true no longer is. In the end it reflects the Truth that is its founder, Jesus Christ.

The Synod will certainly look at the law, but not in order to change it. No, it will concern itself with translation and communication. How can the pastoral care that the Church now offers be improved, so that what she asks the faithful is also possible for them to achieve. In a recent interview Cardinal Burke said, “It simply makes no sense to talk about mercy which doesn’t respect truth. How can that be merciful?” He’s right. Truth and mercy are not separate. How is it merciful to encourage someone to move further away from the truth that he or she wants to follow? And how are we true to what Christ’s asks of us if we show false mercy?

neymeyrIt’s taken two years but at long lost the Diocese of Erfurt has a bishop again. From Mainz comes 57-year-old Bishop Ulrich Neymeyr as the successor of Bishop Joachim Wanke, who retired on the first of October of 2012 for health reasons. Bishop Neymeyr, until today the sole auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Mainz, becomes the second bishop of Erfurt, which was established in 1994. Before that, since 1973, it had been the Apostolic Administration of Erfurt-Meiningen.

Over the past two years, Erfurt has been led by auxiliary Bishop Reinhard Hauke, who has served as diocesan administrator and has made no secret of the vacancy being exceptionally long. Other bishops, like Bishop Gerhard Feige of neighbouring Magdeburg, have likewise done so, especially when other dioceses, such as Cologne, seemingly were given precedence when needing new bishops. And although the daily affairs of Erfurt are ensured by the presence of a diocesan administrator, general governmental procedures and documents could not be adapted or retracted while there was no proper diocesan bishop. Those limitations are now gone with the appointment of Bishop Neymeyr.

neymeyr

Bishop Ulrich Neymeyr was born in Herrnsheim, a part of the city of Worms on the River Rhine, south of Frankfurt. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Mainz in 1982 by Cardinal Hermann Volk. His successor and the current bishop of Mainz, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, consecrated him a bishop after St. John Paul II appointed him as auxiliary bishop of Mainz and titular bishop of Maraguia in 2003. After 11 years fulfilling that position, Bishop Neymeyr now moves to Erfurt.

For Mainz the move means the beginning of a complete change in bishops. Bishop Neymeyr was Mainz’s only auxiliary bishop, which leaves the ordinary, 78-year old Karl Cardinal Lehmann. His retirement should be accepted between now and May of 2016, when the cardinal turns 80. The diocese is home to some 800,000 Catholics and includes such cities as Mainz, Worms and Darmstadt.

As a priest, Bishop Neymeyr was the conrector of the seminary of Mainz and later parish priest in Rüsselsheim, east of Mainz, and Worms, in the south of the diocese. As bishop he was episcopal vicar with special responsibility for youth, a task field he is also active in in the German bishops’ conference. Additionally, he also sits on the conference’s media commission.

wanke benedict xviThe Diocese of Erfurt encompasses the major part of the German state of Thuringia and was initially created in 1973 from parts of the dioceses of Würzburg and Fulda, which now border it to the west and southwest. At the time it wasn’t a full diocese because of the unique circumstances of being within the Communist state of East Germany. As the Apostolic Administration of Erfurt-Meiningen, it was first led by Bishop Hugo Aufderbeck, who died in 1981 and was succeed by Bishop Joachim Wanke. In 1994, following the German reunification, Erfurt-Meiningen was made a full diocese under the name Erfurt and Bishop Wanke was made its first bishop. He stayed on until 2012 when he retired for health reasons. During that time he hosted Pope Benedict XVI when he visited in 2011 (see image at right). There has in fact been an earlier Diocese of Erfurt, established by Saint Boniface in 742, but that was suppressed again in 755, seemingly without ever having had its own bishop. The cathedral of Erfurt is rooted in that time however. The current St. Mary’s dates from 1154, but was built on the site of the first church built around 742. Erfurt is home to some 150,000 Catholics in 63 parishes.

Photo credit: [1] © Bistum Mainz, [2] © Bistum Mainz / Matschak, [3] Kay Nietfeld dpa/lth (cropped version)

synod of bishopsYesterday the Holy See published the list of participants in the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family. Of course, there are the usual suspects: the heads of the Roman Curia departments, the standing members of the Synod and the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences, with the latter being default participants in an Extraordinary General Synod, which this one is. Pope Francis has had a personal touch in the selection of several participants; noteable among those are Cardinal Kasper, to all appearances a theologian much appreciated by the Holy Father, but also the vast majority of cardinals he created in his first consistory of last February.

A breakdown per country also shows Pope Francis’ fairly strong focus on both the southern half of the globe and the Middle East. When looking at the members personally appointed by the Pope, as well as the lay and professional participants and auditors, we see that, while 35 participants come from Europe (19 of whom are based in Rome or other parts of Italy), 15 participants come from Asia (5 of them from the Middle East), 12 from Central and South America, 9 from Africa, 4 from Oceania and 4 from North America. Add to those the bishops’ conference presidents and not least the fact that two of the three President Delegates come from outside Europe, and you get a distinct non-western picture.

danneelsFrom a local point of view it is interesting to see that no less than four participants come from Belgium, while there is only a single one from the Netherlands and a mere two from Germany. Belgium sends Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard,which was expected as he is the president of the Belgian bishops’ conference, but also his predecessor, Cardinal Godfried Danneels (pictured), as well as Father George Henri Ruyssen of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. Additionaly, Metropolitan Athenagoras, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Belgium, attends as a “fraternal delegate”.

From the Netherlands comes the archbishop of Utrecht, Cardinal Wim Eijk, as the president of our bishops’ conference, and Germany sends Cardinal Reinhard Marx, not a stranger in Rome, and Berlin’s Professor Ute Eberl.

And of course the list has been criticised, not least today by Fr. Thomas Reese. His argument that the presence of heads of the Curia is a bad thing, and an indication that Pope Francis’ intentions of overhauling and streamlining the workings of the Curia is doomed to fail, is plainly ludicrous. He argues that the prefects and presidents of the Curia are merely staff members and not policy makers, and should therefore be merely attending, not speaking or voting in the Synod, which is an extreme oversimplification. By that reasoning the presidents of the bishops’ conferences should not be there as participants either. The members of the Roman Curia are the closest collaborators of the Pope. They meet with him on a weekly basis and he is generally kept up to date on whatever is going on in the various department. But the Pope is one man, so the prefects and presidents not only have the leeway to make their own decisions, that is also their mandate. They are also not random clerics appointed on a whim, but experienced in their own field of work. They are far more than staff. Their experience, knowledge and mandate are enough to give them not only the right and duty to attend the Synod, but also to contribute and decide. Cricitism like that of Fr. Reese seems mostly motivated by a deeply ingrained fear and mistrust of the Curia, which has created an artifical opposition between individual faithful and the institutional Church.

Anyway, the Synod is still a couple of weeks away. Let’s give it the chance it deserves and not let it die a quiet death once the delegates have returned home.

Below is the full list of participants, as published yesterday:

PRESIDENT

  • Pope Francis

GENERAL SECRETARY

  • Lorenzo Cardinal Baldiserri

PRESIDENT DELEGATES

  • André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, France
  • Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, Philippines
  • Raymunda Damasceno Cardinal Assis, Archbishop of Aparecida, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Brazil

RELATOR GENERAL

  • Péter Cardinal Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Hungary, President of the Concilium Conferentiarum Episcoporum Europae (CCEE).

SPECIAL SECRETARY

  • Archbishop Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy

PRESIDENT OF THE COMMISSION FOR THE MESSAGE

  • Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture

VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COMMISSION FOR THE MESSAGE

  • Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, Rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina

SYNOD FATHERS FROM THE ORIENTAL CHURCHES

  • Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts, President of the Synod of the Catholic Coptic Church
  • Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch of the Greek-Melkites, President of the Synod the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church
  • Patrirach Ignace Youssif III Younan, Patrirach of Antioch of the Syrians, President of the Syriac Catholic Church
  • Patriarch Béchara Boutros Cardinal Raï, Patrirach of Antioch of the Maronites, President of the Synod of the Maronite Church
  • Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, President of the Synod of the Chaldean Church
  • Patriarch Nersos Bedros XIX  Tarmouni, Patrirach of Cilicia of the Armenians, President of the Synod of the Armenian Catholic Church
  • Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, President of the Synod of the Ukrainian Catholic Church
  • Major Archbishop George Cardinal Alencherry, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, President of the Syro-Malabar Church
  • Major Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Cardinal Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum, President of the Synod of the Syro-Malankarese Church
  • Major Archbishop Lucian Cardinal Muresan, Major Archbishop of Făgăras şi Alba Iulia, President of the Synod of the Romanian Church
  • Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Abeba of the Ethiopics, President of the Council of the Ethiopian Church, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia and Eritrea
  • Archbishop William Charles Skurla, Archbishop of Pittsburgh of the Ruthenians, President of the Council of the Ruthenian Church in the United States of America
  • Archbishop Ján Babjak, Archbishop of Presov of the Slovaks, President of the Council of the Slovak Church

PRESIDENT OF THE BISHOPS’ CONFERENCES

  • Bishop Benoît Comlan Messan Alowonou, Bishop of Kpalimé, Togo
  • Bishop Oscar Omar Aparicio Céspedes, Military Ordinary of Bolivia
  • Archbishop José María Arancedo, Archbishop of Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz, Argentina
  • Bishop Anders Arborelius, Bishop of Stockholm, Sweden
  • Raymundo Damasceno Cardinal Assis, Archbishop of Aparecido, Brazil (see also above)
  • Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genova, Italy
  • Bishop Gervaise Banshimiyubusa, Bishop of Ngozi, Burundi
  • Bishop Michael Dixon Bhasera, Bishop of Masvingo, Zimbabwe
  • Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, Archbishop of Valladolid, Spain
  • Bishop Anthony Fallah Borwah, Bishop of Gbarnga, Liberia
  • Bishop Jean-Claude Bouchard, Bishop of Pala, Chad
  • Josip Cardinal Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb, Croatia
  • Archbishop Stephen Brislin, Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Bishop Markus Büchel, Bishop of Sankt Gallen, Switzerland
  • Archbishop Paul Bùi Van Doc, Archbishop of Thành-Phô Hô Chí Minh, Vietnam
  • Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, Archbishop of Tunja, Colombia
  • Archbishop Ignatius Chama, Archbishop of Kasama, Zambia
  • Archbishop Louis Chamniern Santisukniran, Archbishop of Thare and Nonseng, Thailand
  • Archbishop Joseph Coutts, Archbishop of Karachi, Pakistan
  • Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario, Archbishop of Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Archbishop John Atcherley Dew, Archbishop of Wellington, New Zealand
  • Bishop Nicolas Djomo Lola, Bishop of Tshumbe, Congo-Kinshasa
  • Bishop Basílio do Nascimento, Bishop of Baucau, Timor-Leste
  • Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, Archbishop of Gatineau, Canada
  • Willem Jacobus Cardinal Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Péter Cardinal Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary (see also above)
  • Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas, Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador
  • Ricardo Cardinal Ezzati Andrello, Archbishop of Santiago, Chile
  • Bishop Emmanuel Félémou, Bishop of Kankan, Guinea
  • Bishop Oscar Gerardo Fernández Guillén, Bishop of Puntarenas, Costa Rica
  • Archbishop Ruggero Franceschini, Archbishop of Izmir, Turkey
  • Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, Archbishop of Poznan, Poland
  • Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo García Ibáñez, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
  • Archbishop Zef Gashi, Archbishop of Bar, Montenegro
  • Bishop Catalino Claudio Giménez Medina, Bishop of Caacupé, Paraguay
  • Bishop Andrej Glavan, Bishop of Novo Mesto, Slovenia
  • Archbishop Roberto Octavio González Nieves, Archbishop of San Juan de Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico
  • Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, India
  • Archbishop Jan Graubner, Archbishop of Olomouc, Czech Republic
  • Bishop Mario Grech, Bishop of Gozo, Malta
  • Archbishop John Ha Tiong Hock, Archbishop of Kuching, Malaysia
  • Archbishop Denis James Hart, Archbishop of Melbourne, Australia
  • Bishop Eugène Cyrille Houndékon, Bishop of Abomey, Benin
  • Archbishop John Hung Shan-Chuan, Archbishop of Taipei, Taiwan
  • Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria
  • Bishop Peter Kang U-Il, Bishop of Cheju, South Korea
  • Archbishop Samuel Kleda, Archbishop of Douala, Cameroon
  • Bishop Franjo Komarica, Bishop of Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Archbisop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, Archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev, Belarus
  • Bishop Patrick Daniel Koroma, Bishop of Kenema, Sierra Leone
  • Archbishop Joseph Edward Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville, United States of America
  • Archbishop Vincent Landèl, Archbishop of Rabat, Morocco
  • Chibly Cardinal Langlois, Bishop of Les Cayes, Haiti
  • Bishop Mathieu Madega Lebouakehan, Bishop of Mouila, Gabon
  • Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium
  • Archbishop Gerard Tlali Lerotholi, Archbishop of Maseru, Lesotho
  • Bishop Felix Lian Khen Thang, Bishop of Kalay, Myanmar
  • Patriarch José Macário do Nascimento Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon, Portugal
  • Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi, Bishop of Tonga, Tonga
  • Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, Vicar Apostolic of Paksé, Laos
  • Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, Ireland
  • Reinhard Cardinal Marx, Archbishop of München und Freising, Germany
  • Archbishop Angelo Massafra, Archbishop of Shkodrë-Pult, Albania
  • Bishop Juan Matogo Oyana, Bishop of Bata, Equatorial Guinea
  • Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi, Arcbishop of Lubango, Angola
  • Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege, Bishop of Kabgayi, Rwanda
  • Archbishop Thomas Meram, Archbishop of Urmya, Iran
  • Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, Archbishop of Lviv, Ukraine
  • Bishop Lúcio Andrice Muandula, Bishop of Xai-Xai, Mozambique
  • Archbishop Liborius Ndumbukuti Nashenda, Archbishop of Windhoek, Namibia
  • Bishop Benjamin Ndiaye, Bishop of Kaolack, Senegal
  • Bishop Tarcisius J.M. Ngalalekumtwa, Bishop of Iringa, Tanzania
  • Vincent Gerard Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, United Kingdom
  • John Cardinal Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi, Kenya
  • Bishop Rimantas Norvila, Bishop of Vilkaviskis, Lithuania
  • Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, Central African Republic
  • Archbishop John Baptist Odama, Archbishop of Gulu, Uganda
  • Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada, Archbishop of Tokyo, Japan
  • Bishop Arnold Orowae, Bishop of Wabag, Papua New Guinea
  • Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu, Bishop of Konongo-Mampong, Ghana
  • Archbishop Paul Yembuado Ouédraogo, Archbishop of Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso
  • Archbishop Diego R. Padrón Sánchez, Archbishop of Cumaná, Venezuela
  • Bishop Franghískos Papamanólis, Bishop of Syros and Santorini, Greece
  • Albert Malcolm Ranjith Cardinal Patabendige Don, Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Bishop Gregorio Nicanor Peña Rodríguez, Bishop of Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia en Higüey, Dominican Republic
  • Archbishop Tomasz Peta, Archbishop of Mary Most Holy in Astana, Kazakhstan
  • Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, Archbishop of Mother of God at Moscow, Russia
  • Bishop Maurice Piat, Bishop of Port-Louis, Seychelles
  • Archbishop Patrick Christopher Pinder, Archbishop of Nassau, Bahamas
  • Archbishop Salvador Piñeiro García-Calderón, Archbishop of Ayacucho, Peru
  • Archbishop Georges Pontier, Archbishop of Marseille, France
  • Bishop Louis Portella Mbuyu, Bishop of Kinkala, Congo-Brazzaville
  • Bishop Christo Proykov, Apostolic Exarch of Sofia of the Bulgarians, Bulgaria
  • Francisco Cardinal Robles Ortega, Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico
  • Archbishop Ioan Robu, Archbishop of Bucharest, Romania
  • Óscar Andrés Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras
  • Bishop Sócrates René Sándigo Jirón, Bishop of Juigalpa, Nicaragua
  • Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Wien, Austria
  • Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Abeba of the Ethiopics, Ethiopia (see also above)
  • Archbishop Zbignev Stankevics, Archbishop of Riga, Latvia
  • Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, Archbishop of Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, Archbishop of Glasgow, United Kingdom
  • Bishop Jean-Baptiste Tiama, Bishop of Sikasso, Mali
  • Archbishop Alexis Touabli Youlo, Archbishop of Agboville, Côte d’Ivoire
  • Archbishop Fausto Gabriel Trávez Trávez, Archbishop of Quito, Ecuador
  • Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana, Archbishop of Taomasina, Madagascar
  • Patriarch Fouad Twal, Patriarch of Jerusalem
  • Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, Archbishop of Panamá, Panama
  • Bishop Rodolfo Valenzuela Núñez, Bishop of Vera Paz, Guatemala
  • Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, Philippines
  • Bishop Rodolfo Pedro Wirz Kraemer, Bishop of Maldonado-Punta del Este, Uruguay
  • Gabriel Cardinal Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum, Sudan
  • Bishop Joseph Mukasa Zuza, Bishop of Mzuzu, Malawi
  • Archbishop Stanislav Zvolenský, Archbishop of Bratislava, Slovakia

ELECTED BY THE UNION OF SUPERIORS GENERAL

  • Father Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, Superior General of the Society of Jesus
  • Father Mauro Jöhri, Minister General of the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor
  • Father Mario Alegani, Superior General of the Congregation of Saint Joseph

HEADS OF THE DEPARTMENTS OF THE ROMAN CURIA

  • Pietro Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State
  • Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • Leonardo Cardinal Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
  • Angelo Cardinal Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
  • Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
  • Fernando Cardinal Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples
  • Beniamino Cardinal Stella, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy
  • João Cardinal Bráz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  • Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education
  • Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, Major Penitentiary
  • Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
  • Stanislaw Cardinal Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
  • Kurt Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  • Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family
  • Peter Kodwo Appiah Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
  • Robert Cardinal Sarah, President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”
  • Antonio Maria Cardinal Vegliò, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
  • Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers
  • Francesco Cardinal Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
  • Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
  • Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture (see also above)
  • Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications
  • Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation
  • Domenico Cardinal Calcagno, President of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Versaldi, President of the Prefecture of the Economic Affairs of the Holy See

MEMBERS OF THE ORDINARY COUNCIL

  • Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, United States of America
  • Péter Cardinal Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary (see also above)
  • Archbishop Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy (see also above)
  • Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, India (see also above)
  • Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa, Congo-Kinshasa
  • Wilfrid Fox Cardinal Napier, Archbishop of Durban, South Africa
  • George Cardinal Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy
  • Odilo Pedro Cardinal Scherer, Archbishop of São Paulo, Brazil
  • Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Wien, Austria (see above)
  • Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, Ukraine (see also above)
  • Bishop Santiago Jaime Silva Retamalas, Auxiliary Bishop of Valparaíso, Chile, Secretary General of the Episcopal Council of Latin America (CELAM)
  • Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, Philippines (see also above)
  • Donald William Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, United States of America
  • Peter Kodwo Appiah Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (see also above)
  • Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation (see also above)

MEMBERS APPOINTED BY THE POPE

  • Angelo Cardinal Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals
  • Godfried Cardinal Danneels, Archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium
  • Walter Cardinal Kasper, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  • Angelo Cardinal Scola, Archbishop of Milan, Italy
  • Carlo Cardinal Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy
  • Lluís Cardinal Martínez Sistach, Archbishop of Barcelona, Spain
  • André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, France (see also above)
  • Jonh Cardinal Tong Hon, Bishop of Hong Kong, China
  • Orani João Cardinal Tempesta, Archbishop of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Adrew Cardinal Yeom Soo-jung, Archbishop of Seoul, South Korea
  • Philippe Nakellentuba Cardinal Ouédraogo, Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
  • Fernando Cardinal Sebastián Aguilar, Archbishop emeritus of Pamplona y Tudela, Spain
  • Elio Cardinal Sgreccia, President emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Bertello, President of the Governorate of the Vatican City State
  • Archbishop Giovanni Tonucci, Archbishop of Loreto, Italy
  • Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli, Archbishop Anciona-Osimo, Italy
  • Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop of Tlalnepatla, Mexico, President of the Episcopal Council of Latin America (CELAM)
  • Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto, Archbishop of Delhi, India
  • Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, Rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina (see also above)
  • Bishop Alonso Gerardo Garza Treviño, Bishop of Piedras Negras, Mexico
  • Bishop Edgard Amine Madi, Bishop of Nossa Senhora do Líbano em São Paulo of the Maronites, Brazil
  • Bishop Enrico Solmi, Bishop of Parma, Italy, President of the Commission for Life and Family in the Italian Bishops’ Conference
  • Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, Dean of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota
  • Father Francois-Xavier Dumortier, Rector Magnificus of the Pontifical University Gregoriana
  • Father Antonio Spadaro, Editor of the magazine “La Civiltà Cattolica”
  • Father Manuel Jesús Arroba Conde, Professor of Canon Law at the Pontifical Lateran University

UNDERSECRETARY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS

  • Bishop Fabio Fabene

LIST OF OTHER PARTICIPANTS ACCORDING TO THEIR TITLES

  • Fr. Tony Anatrella, psycho-analist. Specialist in social psychiatry. Consultor to the Pontifical Councils for the Family and for Health Care Workers. France.
  • Fr. Gérard Berliet, professor of Sacred Scripture at the provincial seminary in Lyon. Head of pastoral care for divorced and remarried faithful in the Archdiocese of Lyon, France.
  • Fr. Bruno Esposito, professor of Canon Law at the Pontifical University St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome.
  • Fr. Alfonso Fernández Benito, professor of Moral Theology and the Sacrament of Marriage at the Hugher Institute of Theological Studies “San Ildefonso”, director of the Institute for Religious Sciences Santa Maria di Toledo, Spain.
  • Fr. Arul Raj Gali, National Director of “Holy Cross Family Ministries in India”.
  • Dr. Jeffrey Goh, professor of Systematic Theology at the archdiocesan seminary and judge of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Kuching, Malaysia.
  • Fr. Maurizio Gronchi, professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical University Urbaniana in Rome, consultor for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
  • Dr. Rodrigo Guerra López, general director of the Centre for Advanced Social Research, Mexico.
  • Dr. Jocelyne Khoueiry, member of the Episcopal Commission for the Family of the APECL, Lebanon.
  • Dr. Helen Kyung Soo Kwon, member of the executive committee of the “Helen Kim Scholarship Foundation at Ewha Womans University”, South Korea.
  • Fr. Sabatino Majorano, professor of Systemic Moral Theology at the Alphonsianum, Italy.
  • Mr. Christopher Laurence Meney, director of the Center for life, marriage and family of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia.
  • Professor Giuseppina de Simone, extraordinary professor of philosophy at the Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in Naples. Married to ∨
  • Professor Francesco Miano, professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, president of Catholic Action, Italy. Married to ^
  • Professor Carmen Peña García, director of Especialista en Causas Matrimoniales, professor at the Faculty of Canon Law of the Comillas Pontifical University, Defender of the Bond and Promotor of Justice at the Metropolitan Court of Madrid, Spain.
  • Fr. George Henri Ruyssen, professor at the Faculty of Oriental Canon Law of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. Belgium.

AUDITORS

  •  Mr. Arturo and Mrs. Hermelinda As Zamberline, officials of the ‘Equipe Notre Dame” in Brazil.
  • Mr. Riyadh Albeer Naoom Azzo and Mrs. Sanaa Namir Ibrahim Habeeb, witnessing of Christian family life in a Muslim environment, Iraq.
  • Mr. León Botolo and Mrs. Marie Valentine Kisanga Sosawe, founders of Communauté Famille Chrétienne, Congo-Kinshasa.
  • Professor Zelmira María Bottini de Rey, director of the Institute for Couples and Family of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, president of the Latin-America Network of the Institute of the Family of the Catholic Universities, Argentina.
  • Mr. George Campos, director of Couples for Christ, Philippines. Married to ∨
  • Mrs. Cynthia Campos, member of Couples for Christ, Philippines. Married to ^
  • Mr. Inácio Amândio Chaúque, educator of young couples, Mozambique.
  • Mrs. Joan Clements, director of the executive committe of the World Organisation Ovulation Method Billings (WOOMB), Australia.
  • Mr. Stephen and Mrs. Sandra Conway, regional officers for Africa of Retrouvailles, South Africa.
  • Dr. Ute Eberl, responsible for pastoral care for marriage and family in the Archdiocese of Berlin, Germany.
  • Mrs. Pilar Escudero de Jensen, member of the vicariate general of the Archdiocese of Santiago, Chile, member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, member of the Family Institute of Schönstatt, Chile. Married to ∨
  • Mr. Luis Jensen Acuña, member of the Bioethics Centre of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, member of the Family Institute of Schönstatt, Chile. Married to ^
  • Dr. Jean Dieudonné Gatsinga and Mrs. Emerthe Gatsinga Tumuhayimpundu, repsonsible for young families of the Focolare movement in Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda.
  • Mr. Jeffrey Heinzen, director of Natural Family Planing of the Diocese of La Crosse, United States of America. Married to ∨
  • Mrs. Alice Heinzen, member of the Natural Family Planning Advisory Board of the Diocese of La Crosse, United States of America. Married to ^
  • Dr. Ilva Myriam Hoyos Castañeda, prosecutor delegate for the defense of the rights of children, youth and family, Colombia.
  • Mr. Sélim and Mrs. Rita Khoury, leading the Office for Pastoral Care for Families of the Patriarchal Curia of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon.
  • Mrs. María Lacalle Noriega, director of the Centre of the Study of the family (Inst. Investigaciones económicas y sociales Francisco de Vitoria), secretary general of the Sociedad Española de bioética y biojurídica, Spain.
  • Fr. Cajetan Menezes, director of the Family Apostolate in Bombay, India.
  • Mr. Giuseppe Petracca Ciavarella and Mrs. Lucia Miglionico, medical doctors, members of the National Council for Pastoral Care of Families, Italy.
  • Sister Margaret Muldoon, Superior General of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux, Ireland.
  • Mr. Francisco Padilla, officer of the Couples for Christ Foundation for family and life movement, Philippines.
  • Mr. Algirdas Petronis, vice president of the International Federation of Catholic Families, director of the Centre for the Family of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, Lithuania.
  • Mr. Romano and Mrs. Mavis Pirola, directors of the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council.
  • Mr Olivier and Mrs. Xristilla Roussy, responsible for the apostolic branch of Amour et Vérité, France.
  • Mr. Steve and Mrs. Claudia Schultz, members of the International Catholic Engaged Encounter, United States of America.
  • Mrs. Michèle Taupin, preident of the movement Espérance et Vie, France.
  • Mrs. Jeannette Touré, National president of the Association of Catholic Women in Côte d’Ivoire.

FRATERNAL DELEGATES

  •  Archbishop Athenagoras, Metropolitan of Belgium. Ecumenic patriarchate.
  • Archbishop Hilarion, President of Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow.
  • Metropolitan Bishoy, Metropolitan of Damietta, Kafr Elsheikh and Elbarari, Egypt. Coptic Orthodox Church.
  • Mar Yostinos, Archbishop of Zhale and Bekau, Lebanon. Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.
  • Bishop Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, England. Anglican Communion.
  • Dr. Ndanganeni Petrus Phaswaha, Bishop-President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa. World Lutheran Federation.
  • Dr. Benebo Fubara-Manuel, President of the Nigeria Communion of Reformed Churches. World Communion of Reformed Churches.
  • Dr. Valérie Duval-Poujol, professor of Biblical Exegesis at the Catholic Institute of Paris, France. World Baptist Alliance.

johan-bonnyBishop Johan Bonny has been making headlines in Catholic media, first in Germany but today also in his native Belgium. In an extensive note the bishop of Antwerp outlines his thoughts and expectations for this autumn’s Synod of Bishops. Various media have presented this as an attack on Popes Paul VI and St. John Paul II and their documents on difficult subjects related to marriage, family and morality. But reality is somewhat different. Bishop Bonny does not exclusively discuss the contents of various magisterial pronouncements, but does offer strong criticism on how they came about, and how they are put it into practice.

In this post, I will summarise the text and offer my opinion here and there. As it is a fairly long text, this post is a work in progress. Expect updates over the coming days.

In the first part of his document, the bishops explains that he sees the development of an ecclesiastical question within the discussion about marriage and family, which he traces back to Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on  contraception and sexuality, Humanae vitae. The way in which the Pope developed this text, apparently ignoring the advice of experts he had appointed himself, stands in stark contrast with how the Second Vatican Council went about matters: in strong collegiality which led to a virtually unanimous passing of documents.

This lack of collegiality in such an important matter has led, so the bishop explains, to a gap between the Church’s moral teaching and the moral understanding of the faithful. And we do see this happening: statements, decrees, encyclicals and the like do not play much of a role in the lives of the faithful, even though they can be important for properly living as Catholic faithful. Of course, a perceived lack of collegiality can not be the only explanation for this, as Bishop Bonny admits. I would even go so far as wondering if many faithful are even aware of how documents are developed, at least not in our time.

Among bishops, Curia and Pope, more collegiality can have positive results (and also negative), since we should not be afraid of talking about such important matters. But the Church is no democracy. The very nature of the papacy, of the body of apostles and disciples that Christ established, is at odds with that. The Pope has magisterial primacy, and he must be free to exercise it. But of course it is good to do everything to avoid needless division and even opposition, although that can probably never be rooted out completely.

woelkiWhen it comes to bishops, the foremost issue in the minds of many in Germany is that of finances. That’s certainly so for Cardinal Rainer Woelki as he prepares to move from Berlin to Cologne. In what has been presented as his farewell interview in Berlin, the cardinal was asked about his new living arrangements. Exchanging a rented house for an episcopal palace, he said:

“The Bishop’s House in Cologne is a giant box from the 1950s. It was built for an archbishop who lives there with a court, with religious sisters and a secretary. For me the house is far too big. To have to live there is no reason for pleasure. I have had a wall built where in the past the religious sisters used to live, in order to create a somewhat separate living space. That way another apartment is created on the other side.”

You can house a refugee family there.

“That has been suggested. I will consider these and other ideas with my staff in Cologne this autumn.”

While refurbishing and restoration work has been ongoing, reporters were invited to come and take a look at Cardinal Woelki’s living arrangements in the building which also houses several  offices of the archdiocese. In the Aachener Zeitung we find a lighthearted report, which starts with considering the cardinal’s bathtub: “The bathtub, always the bathtub. It is white, a bit creme-coloured, quite a small bathtub. [The cardinal] himself is quite tall, but this is the one he wanted,” said Achim Schmitz, head of the construction office.

seminary cologne^The central square of the seminary of the Archdiocese of Cologne. Cardinal Woelki will live in an apartment behind these buildings.

The name of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, whose allegedly luxury bathroom was part of the problems that led to his leaving the Diocese of Limburg for a rented home in Regensburg, surrounds these considerations. So when it became clear that Cardinal Woelki will have a swimming pool in his basement, expectations of unwarranted luxury appeared. But reality is far more sober. The pool was built in the 1950s for the adjacent seminary and today it is being used for swimming classes by local schools, and to teach a group of Muslim women how to swim.

Still, the renovation is not cheap at 1.45 million euros (1.9 million dollars). But financial director Hermann-Josef Schon is quick to explain that these costs cover long-overdue work as the building has not seen any renovation in 25 years and it covers such necessary things as heating, electricity and water.

So while Cologne is known to be one of Germany’s richest dioceses, little beyond the necessary will go to the daily needs of its new archbishop. Cardinal Woelki is pleased to have what he needs and little more. He will run his own household, without a secretary, housekeeper and only a modest bathtub.

Photo credit: [1] dpa, [2] wdr

tawadrosIt’s still an odd concept: the spiritual leader of the Coptic Orthodox Christians, who also happens to be the successor of Saint Mark, travelling from the Egyptian capital to a midsized northern Dutch town – which is, in itself, not the most thrilling of locations to be – to be with the young faithful under his spiritual guidance.

Pope Tawadros II is doing exactly that this weekend. And the faithful attending the European Youth Conference love him for it. Miriam Yakob, one of the 750 attending, said, “He may even be more important to us [than the Catholic Pope]. He is our shepherd, our teacher. He is our father.” The Pope gave two talks at the conference.

On behalf of the local Catholic community, Father Maurits Damsté was among those welcoming Pope Tawadros to the conference centre in Stadskanaal, located about 30 kilometers to the south east of the city of Groningen, where the event is taking place.

Pope Tawadros’ visit follows one by his predecessor, Pope Shenouda III, who visited the Netherlands in 2010. Shenouda passed away in 2012, and Tawadros was elected in November of that year. In May of 2013, he visited Rome and met with Pope Francis.

The Coptic Orthodox is sadly not in union with Rome, and hasn’t been since the Council of Chalcedon of 451. The differences lie in Coptic understanding of the nature of Christ, but this is a highly technical issue. The Coptic Orthodox and the Catholic Church have established close ties since 1973, and have together confessed unity in the faith in Christ.

Worldwide, there are between 14 and 16 million Coptic Orthodox Christians, with the vast majority, some 12 million, residing in Egypt. In the Netherlands, there are Coptic Orthodox churches in seven cities. There is a single diocese for the roughly 6,000 faithful, headed by Bishop Arseny.

 Photo credit: Rtvnoord.nl

Canizares-XIn what could be called the most significant shakeup of the Curia since his pontificate began, Pope Francis today appointed Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera as the new archbishop of his native Valencia. This leaves the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments – which the cardinal headed since late 2008 – vacant, which is unusual in itself. Curial congregations usually only fall vacant when a sitting prefect dies. Reassignments are usually carefully planned so that when a prefect goes, his successor is already waiting in the wings.

To date, Pope Francis has not busied himself too much with reassigning the prefects and president of the dicasteries of the Curia. 17 months in, the Holy Father appointed Cardinal Parolin as Secretary of State, Cardinal Pell as Secretary for the Economy, Cardinal Piacenza as Major Penitentiary and Cardinal Stella as Clergy prefect. Divine Worship and Sacraments has one of the most important mandates in the Curia, perhaps comparable only to the Congregation for  the Doctrine of the Faith in that it has direct influence on practice and understanding of the faith. Add to that the fact that it is extremely rare for Cardinal-prefects to leave the Curia for an appointment in an (arch)diocese (There is a single precedent from 2006 when Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe went from the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples to Naples).

benedict cañizaresAs for his successor, the name of Archbishop Piero Marini continues being named. The erstwhile master of ceremonies under Pope Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI from 1987 to 2007 today heads the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses. As MC he was responsible for organising (and making significant stylistic choices for) the liturgical celebrations of the Pope, a task now performed by Msgr. Guido Marini, who is not related to the archbishop. Many have expressed serious concerns about the possibility that Archbishop Marini may succeed Cardinal Cañizares Llovera. Whereas the latter is known as the ‘little Ratzinger’ (shown above with ‘big’ Ratzinger), sharing the Pope emeritus’ focus on the Second Vatican Council as being in continuity with the past, Marini advocates it as a radical break with the past. And this shows in his liturgical choices.

Cardinal Cañizares Llovera’s appointment to Valencia is part of a chain of events that begins with the retirement of the Archbishop of Madrid. Aged 78, Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela is well beyond retirement age and completes 20 years in the Spanish capital. His successor was generally expected to be Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, but he may have chosen not to accept an appointment to the demands of Spain’s largest diocese, instead accepting the smaller Valencia, which also happens to be his native archdiocese (he was a priest of Valencia from 1970 to 1992). Valencia own Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra goes to Madrid in his stead, although not as a second choice. Archbishop Osoro Sierra has been compared to Pope Francis himself, a man of practical faith and shepherding from the trenches, so to speak.

For both the cardinal and the archbishop, their new appointments are to their third archdioceses: Cardina Cañizares Llovera was archbishop of Granada and Toledo before going to Rome, and Archbishop Osoro Sierra headed Oviedo and then Valencia, and now Madrid. Below are full overviews of the ecclesiastic paths of all three players in this tale:

Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera (68)

  • Priest of the Archdiocese of Valencia from 1970 to 1992
  • Bishop of Ávila from 1992 to 1996
  • Archbishop of Granada from 1996 to 2002
  • Archbishop of Toledo from 2002 to 2008
  • Vice-President of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference from 2005 to 2008
  • Created cardinal, with the title church of San Pancrazio, in 2006
  • Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments from 2008 to 2014
  • Archbishop of Valencia since 2014

Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra (69)

  • Priest of Santander from 1973 to 1996
  • Bishop of Orense from 1996 to 2002
  • Archbishop of Oviedo from 2002 to 2009
  • Archbishop of Valencia from 2009 to 2014
  • Vice-President of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference since 2014
  • Archbishop of Madrid since 2014

Antontio María Cardinal Rouco Varela (78)

  • Priest of Mondoñedo-Ferrol from 1959 to 1976
  • Auxiliary Bishop of Santiago de Compostela, and titular bishop of Gergis, a from 1976 to 1984
  • Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela from 1984 to 1994
  • Archbishop of Madrid from 1994 to 2014
  • Created cardinal, with the title church of San Lorenzo in Damaso, in 1998
  • President of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference from 1999 to 2005 and from 2008 to 2014
  • Member of the Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organisational and Economic Problems of the Apostolic See from 2004 to 2014

 Photo credit: [2] Osservatore Romano

They were 50,000 strong, coming from 26 dioceses in Germany and beyond, filling all of St. Peter’s Square for an encounter with Pope Francis yesterday. Young altar servers, accompanied by some of their bishops, on a pilgrimage to Rome. To their great surprise Pope Francis addressed them in German. In my translation:

“The words from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians that we heard, make us sit up and listen. The time is right, Paul says. God is serious now. What God has always told the people through the prophets He now shows us with a striking example. God explains us that He is a good father. And how does He do so? By the fact that He made His Son man. Through this concrete human being Jesus we can understand what God really means. He wants human beings, who are free but know themselves always to be secure as children of a good father.

To release this, God needs only a man. He needs a woman, a mother, to bring His Son into the world as a human being. That is the Virgin Mary, whom we honour with these Vespers tonight. She was completely free. In her freedom she has said yes. She has done what is good for all time. That is how she has served God and the people. Let’s keep her example in mind when we want to know what God expects from us as His children.”

pope francis altar servers

After the Vespers, four altar servers asked questions to Pope Francis. The first question was about how young people could play a bigger part in the life of the Church, as suggested by the Holy Father in Evangelii Gaudium, and also what the Church expects from altar servers? The second server asked for advice in how to respond to friends who do not understand why anyone would want to be an altar server at the expense of other passtimes. Question three dealt with freedom, and how to experience, understand it in a life which has so many rules.

Pope Francis answered:

pope francis“Dear servers,

I thank you for this encounter on the occasion of your pilgrimage to Rome and I want to give you some food for thought related to the questions that your representatives have asked me.

You have asked me what you can do to  contribute more in the Church and what the Christian community expects from you as altar servers. Let’s first remember that the world needs people who attest to others that God loves us and that He is our father. Everyone in society has the obligation to serve the common good by contributing to what is essential: food, clothing, medical care, education, information, the legal system, and so on. As disciples of the Lord we have an additional task, namely to be the “channels”, the lines which pass the love of Jesus on to others. And in this duty you, youth and young adults, have a special role: You are called to tell your contemporaries about Jesus – not just in the parishes or organisations, but especially outside them. That is a task which has been especially entrusted to you, because with your courage, your enthusiasm, your spontaneity and your sociability  it is easier to reach the thoughts and hearts of those who have drifted away from the Lord. Many people of your age have an enormous desire for someone who tells them, with their lives, that Jesus knows us, loves us, forgives us, shares our problems and supports us with His mercy.

But in order to speak with others about Jesus, we must known and love Him, experience Him in prayer and in His Word. You have the advantage in that respect, because of your service in the liturgy, which allows you to be near to Jesus, the Word and the Bread of Life. Let me give you some advice: The Gospel reading you hear in the liturgy, read it again for yourselves, in silence, and apply it to your lives. And with the love of Christ, which you have received in Holy Communion, you will be able to put it into practice. The Lord calls each of you today to work in His field. He calls you to be happy players in His Church, willing to share with your friends what He has shared with your, especially His mercy.

I understand your problems of combining your service at the altar with your other activities, which are necessary for your human development and cultural formation. So you must organise a bit, plan things in a balanced way… but you are German, so that should be easy! Our life consists of time, and that time is a gift from God, so it must be used for good and fruitful things. Perhaps many young people waste too many hours with useless things: chatting on the Internet or on your mobile phone, but also with television programs. The products of technological progress, which should simplify life or increase its quality, are sometimes distractions from what is really important. Among the many things which are part of our daily routine, those that remind us of our Creator, who gives us life, who loves us and accompanies us on our journey through life, should have priority.

Because God has created us in His image we have also received from Him this great gift of freedom. But when we don’t use this freedom properly it can move us away from God, can let us lose that dignity which He has given us. That is why guidance, rules and regulations are necessary – both in society and also in the Church – to help us do the will of God and to live in this way according to our dignity as human beings and children of God. When freedom is not influenced by the Gospel it can turn into slavery, the slavery of sin. Adam and Eve, our first parents, moved away from the will of God and so fell into sin, and also into a bad use of freedom. Dear young friends, do not use your freedom wrongly! Do not waste your great dignity as children of God, which has been given to you. When you follow Jesus and His Gospel, your freedom will bloom like a flower and bear good and rich fruits. You will find true joy, since God wants us to be completely happy and fulfilled. Only when we immerse ourselves in the will of God, we can do what is good and be both the light of the world and the salt of the earth!

The Virgin Mary, who understood herself to be the “handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38), is your example in the service of God. She, our mother, will help you, young people full of hope and courage, to be workers for good and labourers for peace in the Church and in society.”

Cologne may have been given a new archbishop only four months after the retirement of its previous archbishop, this latest appointment does not do anything to decrease the number of vacant sees in Germany. Cologne is off the list, but Berlin is back on it, only three years after it last appeared.

vacant sees in Germany

Indicated in the above map, joining Berlin are Hamburg in the north, and Limburg and Erfurt in central Germany. While the former two have been vacant for only four months, Erfurt stands out. It has been 19 months since Bishop Joachim Wanke retired for health reasons, and to all appearances, Erfurt has been passed over several times. Of course, reality is different, as the needs of one diocese are not necessarily the same as another, and a bishop who may be a good fit for one diocese, need not be so for another.

HaukeReinhard130In his congratulatory message for Cardinal Woelki’s new appointment, Bishop Reinhard Hauke (pictured), auxiliary bishop and Apostolic Administrator of Erfurt, notes: “And I pray and hope that the remaining vacant dioceses in Germany may also soon be able to rejoice about the appointment of a new bishop. Certainly we in the Diocese of Erfurt have been waiting for a long time.” In western Europe, only the Diocese of Leeds has been vacant for longer.

The expectation is that Hamburg won’t get a new archbishop before the year is over, and Limburg is a special case in itself. The selection of its new bishop will be a careful one. Berlin is only getting started with the entire process, but Erfurt has been waiting long enough, it would seem. The next new bishop in Germany should be going to Erfurt.

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

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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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