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An interesting suggestion from the bishops of South Korea to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints: start the process to beatify the bishop of Pyongyang. Rather than a fairly improper effort to underline the holiness of one of their own, the bishops instead point to the strange and worrisome story of Bishop Francis Hong Yong-Ho and the plight of all the faithful in North Korea, Catholic or otherwise.
According to the official records of the Holy See, he is the oldest serving bishop of the Church, at the age of 106. But paperwork and reality do not always match, and the reality is that no one has seen Bishop Hong Yong-Ho in the past 51 years. No one knows if he is dead or still lives in some North Korean re-education camp. The North Korean regime isn’t exactly friendly to any religion, and publicly belonging to any faith is a risky business in that country. There are no priests in North Korea that we know of, but the Holy See steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the state-imposed reality as far as the appointment of bishops is concerned. Several South Korean bishops are officially appointed as administrators of North Korean dioceses, but no ordinaries, since the regime does not allow any priest to exercise his ministry.
Bishop Hong Yong-Ho, appointed as Vicar Apostolic of Pyongyang in 1933, and then as its first bishop in 1962 (the date of his disappearance), is the only North Korean prelate of whom we don’t know his date of death.
Of course, we may assume that the bishop has been dead for a long time. But the continued listing of his name as ordinary of the North Korean capital is a silent but solid protest against the violently anti-religious regime in that country; As long as we don’t get to hear anything about the fate of our man, we are not going to acknowledge anything you say or do (or don’t say or do), that sort of stuff.
In the meantime, Bishop Hong Yong-Ho has unknowingly become a symbol of the Church’s stance against the totalitarian regime of the Kim family and the worship they demand from their subjects. A future Blessed Bishop Francis would not only once more bring the situation in North Korea to the world’s attention, but would also serve as an inspiration for Christians in similar situations in other countries.
Nota bene: Of course the Congregation for the Causes of Saints can’t suggest anyone for beatification if that person hasn’t died yet, so there seems to be an obstacle there.
The markedly strong-chinned Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán marks his 80th birthday today and so looses his position as a cardinal elector. There are now 118 electors remaining.
Born in Toluca in Mexico’s heartland, Javier Lozano Barragán attended seminary in Zamora and subsequently studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, earning a doctorate in theology. In 1955 he was ordained to the priesthood.
Returning to Mexico, Fr. Lonzano Barragán taught dogmatic theology and history of philosophy at the seminary of Zamora. He later headed the Pastoral Institute of the Latin American Bishops’ Conference.
In 1979 he was appointed as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of México with the titular see of Thinisa in Numidia. In 1984, Bishop Lozano Barragán was transferred to Zacatecas to become ordinary there. After twelve years, he once more returned to Rome as President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance of Health Care Workers. Two months later, at the start of 2007, he was granted the personal title of archbishop.
Pope John Paul II created him a cardinal in his last consistory, in 2003. Cardinal Lozano Barragán received the title church of San Michele Arcangelo. In 2009 the cardinal retired as president of the health care council. He remained a member of the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, the Congregation for Causes of the Saints, and the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses until today.
Cardinal Lozano Barragán made headlines several times, mostly in defence of life. He is strongly opposed to abortion and euthanasia and received criticism over his stance on homosexuality, although he never advocated discrimination towards homosexuals. The cardinal anticipated Pope Benedict XVI several times, in his advocacy for a quick beatification of Pope John Paul II, and also in his alleged preparation of a report which would state that the use of condoms would be a lesser evil if one of two partners was infected with HIV. That report was never published, and the pope would later state that the use of condoms could signal a moral improvement on the part of the user.
It is the first year after the beatification of Pope John Paul II, and while a Blessed’s feast day is normally limited to those places where he or she was active (in this case, the city of Rome and the country of Poland), special dispensation has been given for every diocese in the world to organise one celebration in this first year. The Dutch bishops have chosen this weekend, 32 years on the day after Blessed Pope John Paul II called a special Synod on the Church on the Netherlands, for this celebration to take place.
The most high-profile Mass for the Blessed Pope will be the one in the Basilica of Saint Lambert in Hengelo, Archdiocese of Utrecht, which will be televised. Cardinal-designate Wim Eijk is the main celebrant, and most other bishops are to concelebrate.
But in this time, when the clouds of the abuse crisis still hang over us, a potential blemish has appeared. Mr. Frank Oude Geerdink, who was abused by a priest, has called for other victims to gather at the Basilica and stage a ‘silent protest’ in the presence of the bishops. Now, just like previous protests we’ve seen in the past years, this is completely misplaced. Mass is not the place for protest, since it is not primarily about policy or whatever passes between people. In essence, when a protest is staged at a Mass, the chief means by which we receive healing and reconciliation, and which belongs to God, is hijacked to merely make a point. This protest, which has trouble getting of the ground, by the way, is a protest against the lack of response from the bishops to the abuse committed by the Church. Now, the entire premise is wrong (the abuse is not committed by the Church, but by individuals) and the protesters must have missed the Deetman report and the initial reactions to it from the bishops and the religious superiors. While there is still more that needs doing for the victims the premise that the bishops stayed silent simply can not be upheld. Maybe that is the reason why, so far, only six people have signed up to join Mr. Oude Geerdink.
Two hopes, then; that the bishops continue working for the good of all the victims of sexual abuse; and that Sunday’s Mass will not be disrupted. That will simply do not an ounce of good.
Image credit: RKK/Dutch Bishops’ Conference
With a total 5,940 page views, the month of May has, at the last minute, been able to continue to steady increase visible over the past couple of months. It is now in second place on the list of most visitors on the blog per month. In total views, we’re approaching the 90,000, so I expect that the 100,000 will be crossed sometime in August, 1 year and 8 months after I started this blog. A nice number, but of course nothing to Fr. Tim Finigan’s 3 million visitors since he began blogging. Although he has been at it since April of 2006.
On to the usual top 10 of most popular blog posts. There are three Dutch translations in there (which makes me happy), and the posts about the Dutch Salesians also rank high. Blessed John Paul II’s beatification is also in there, although not as high as I would have expected. Lastly, the new bishop of Rotterdam also led to some decent interest in my writings.
1: An angry post: 166
2: Statement from Vatican press chief Fr. Lombardi on the death of Bin Laden: 107
3: Universae Ecclesiae: 95
4: A prayer answered: 63
5: Het probleem Medjugorje: 62
6: Three press releases from the Salesians 59
7: Fifth bishop of Rotterdam to be announced at noon tomorrow: 57
8: Homilie bij de zaligverklaring van Paus Johannes Paulus II: 56
9: Bishop van den Hende to Rotterdam: 53
10: Pictures say more: 43
… than a thousands words, they say. So with that in mind I won’t add many words to the reports of yesterday’s beatification of Blessed Pope John Paul II. Instead, here are 20 photos which I liked:
[But if there is need of words, here is my translation of Pope Benedict XVI's homily.]
 Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images
  Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
    Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images
 AP Photo/Massimo Sestini, Polizia di Stato
 Pool L’Osservatore Romano Vatican-Pool/Getty Images
 REUTERS/Ettore Ferrari/Pool
 AP Photo/L’Osservatore Romano
  Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images
 REUTERS/Max Rossi
 Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images
  AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito
  AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
 AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca
God our Father,
We thank you for the many years that you have given us the blessed Pope John Paul II as shepherd of Your Church. We remember with gratitude his powerful witness of the faith. With the courage of Saint Paul and the faith of Saint Peter, he proclaimed the Gospel to the far corners of the world, until the end.
At the heart of his proclamation was the Message of Your merciful love. He not only showed us that love, but also lived it for us as an example, especially with the power of spirit with which he carried his heavy suffering. Numerous people, among them so many young people, saw in him a striking similarity with Jesus, Your Son, the Good Shepherd who gave His life for His flock.
God, our Father, on the intercession of this blessed Pope John Paul, we now pray you: let the breath of Your Holy Spirit give new life to Your Church.
Purify us, the members of Your Church, of all our shortcomings and all our sins. Unite us all in solid faith in You. Enkindle in us the fire of hope in Your eternal Kingdom, and awake in us the love that goes out to all, without distinction.
Holy Mary, Mother of the Saviour, pray for us. Like the blessed Pope John Paul we place our lives completely under your protection, Mother of Mercy.
[Translation of the prayer published by the Diocese of Roermond, on the occasion of the beatification of Pope John Paul II]
What with the celebration of Queen’s Day here in the Netherlands and the assorted social engagements that accompany it, I find little time to write something substantial about tomorrow’s big event: the beatification of Pope John Paul II, whom we may from then on call Blessed John Paul II. Luckily, several other bloggers and reporters are in Rome to share the amazing atmosphere in the eternal city with their readers. I happily link to them.
Father Roderick and Steve Nelson are in Rome for SQPN. They give a foretaste of the excitement and the crowds here. Anna Arco of the Catholic Herald shares her first Roman blog post to give an excellent overview of the events of today, including the closure of St. Peter’s Square at 1 this afternoon until 5:30 tomorrow. Finally, Rocco Palmo, of the excellent Whispers in the Loggia, offers several detailed posts about the preparations as well.
I will spend tomorrow morning in front of the tv. Dutch Catholic broadcaster RKK will start live coverage at 10 in the morning.
Photo credit: Louis Runhaar/RKK