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As the registration closed on 5 April, some 300 young Catholics from the Netherlands had signed up for the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which will take place in July. Although this is about 1,000 less than the number who went to Madrid in 2011, the number can’t be considered as very low. Whereas a bus trip sufficed for Madrid, for Rio, the pilgrims will be making an intercontinental flight, as well as significant plane journeys within Brazil or, in one case, from Suriname to Brazil. Higher costs and the far greater distance will have kept more people from committing.
The Dutch pilgrims, which will be accompanied by Bishops Hendriks, Mutsaerts and De Jong, are also joined by a group from the Diocese of Paramaribo. That is a similar construction to the one used in 2011, when the Surinam pilgrims joined up with the group from the Diocese of Rotterdam before travelling south to Spain. The Dutch pilgrims will now be guests in Suriname before travelling to Rio.
Other pilgrim groups will start their World Youth Day experience in Brazil, in the Archdiocese of Belo Horizonte and Fortaleza and the Diocese of Almenara. Two of these circumscriptions have connections to the Netherlands: Belo Horizonte is the city of Blessed Eustáquio van Lieshout, a Dutch missionary who worked miracles for the sick under his care; and Almenara’s Bishop Hugo van Steekelenburg was born in the Netherlands.
As in earlier editions of the World Youth Days, the first week will be spent in dioceses and communities across the host country and neighbouring countries. Starting on 20 July, the young pilgrims will start arriving in Rio de Janeiro.
Marking the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI, which becomes effective in the evening of 28 February, all Dutch and Flemish dioceses will be offering a thanksgiving Mass for his pontificate. With the exception of Haarlem-Amsterdam and Antwerp, all will do so on the day of abdication itself.
The two metropolitan archdioceses, Utrecht and Mechelen-Brussels, will feature the most extensive celebrations. In Utrecht, a Mass will be offered at 12:30 at St. Catherine’s cathedral, which will be followed by Holy Hour, a sung Rosary, Vespers and Benediction at 6. Whether Cardinal Eijk will attend this day is unclear. Mechelen-Brussels will offer no less than three Masses, all at 8pm: In Brussels by Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard and auxiliary Bishop Jean Kockerols, in Louvain (St. Peter’s) by auxiliary Bishop Leon Lemmens, and in Waver (St. John the Baptist) by auxiliary Bishop Jean-Luc Hudsyn.
The other thanksgiving Masses will take place at 6pm in Bruges (by Bishop Jozef De Kesel), at 7pm in Groningen (Bishop Gerard de Korte), Breda (Bishop Jan Liesen) and Roermond (Bishop Frans Wiertz), and at 8pm in Ghent (Bishop Luc Van Looy) and Hasselt (Bishop Patrick Hoogmartens). All Masses will be at the respective cathedrals of the dioceses, except in Breda, where the Mass will be offered at the chapel of the Bovendonk seminary in Hoeven, and Hasselt, where the Basilica of Our Lady will host the Mass
The next day, 1 March, auxiliary Bishop Jan Hendriks will offer a Mass at 7:30pm, and on 3 March, Antwerp’s Bishop Johan Bonny will offer one at 5pm.
In addition to these Masses, parishes, communities and other societies may of course also mark the abdication with Masses or prayer services.
On Monday the Dutch bishops quickly released an official response to the announced abdication of Pope Benedict. Today, some of them shared personal recollections and opinions about the Holy Father. Here is a selection.
Cardinal Wim Eijk, Utrecht: “I remember him as a very approachable, congenial and pleasant man, and of course exceptionally erudite. [...] I must say I have very good memories of him.
His high points I still consider his encyclicals, which are of course fantastic. I also have the best memories of his homilies – very often you discover the personal touch of the theologian in them. They were often very profound homilies which witnessed of a very close relationship with Christ and a deep spirituality. I always found them very impressive, and I noticed that others felt the same way.”
Bishop Jan Liesen, Breda: “He is an incredibly wise man. I recall the first meeting of the International Theological Commission that I attended. That was in 2004. Pope Benedict XVI, then still Cardinal Ratzinger, chaired that meeting. There were thirty new members. After the deliberations he summarised the highlights of the meeting and he did so in Latin. Everyone understood what he said. I have never seen anyone do that.”
Bishop Jan Hendriks, auxiliary Haarlem-Amsterdam: “I did notice that his health was deteriorating and the last time I met him, last September, he was clearly very much fatigued. The Pope has clearly considered this decision with his closest associates and doctors and before the Face of the Lord.
We are very grateful to our Pope for the leadership he has given our Church as successor of Peter, in simple servitude, loving and conciliatory. There will be time later to reflect on the many achievement of our Pope Benedict XVI. Let us thank God for this pontificate and ask God’s blessing for Pope Benedict, over this month until the abdication and the rest of his life.”
Bishop Gerard de Korte, Groningen-Leeuwarden: “Last October I was in Rome, together with a number of faithful from my diocese, and I was able to speak briefly with the Pope. Up close it was clear how old the Pope had become. I think that we can call the decision of Pope Benedict a wise one. No one is called to an impossible task. Leading the Church requires a physical and spiritual strength that the current Pope no longer has available.”
Following the example of many other leaders, Catholic and otherwise, the Dutch bishops also released a statement following Pope Benedict’s surprise announcement that he would resign at the end of this month. Below follows the text in my translation.
Before this official statement, Bishop Jan Hendriks, auxiliary of Haarlem-Amsterdam, shared his own thoughts about the news. He noted how the Holy Father clearly seemed very fatigued when he last met the Holy Father in September.
“Today we received the news about the resignation, at the end of this month, of Pope Benedict XVI. As for so many others, this news was a surprise to us.
The Holy Father announced that his resignation would take effect on Thursday 28 February at 8pm. His age and health are the decisive reasons for this radical and historical decision.
Pope Benedict XVI is one of the greatest theologians in the Catholic world of the second half of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first century. His knowledge is not only limited to dogmatics, which he taught in his younger years, but extends over the entire field of theology. This was also expressed in his encyclicals, other letters and addresses as contributions to the magisterium of the Church. He also showed himself a true shepherd of the Church. Pope Benedict XVI, then, has played a role in the Roman Catholic Church which should not be underestimated. We are very grateful for his pontificate.
In his statement, Pope Benedict XVI also announced the conclave in which a new Pope will be elected. Cardinal Eijk will participate in this conclave.
At the age of 78, Cardinal Ratzinger heard the call of the Lord and accepted the highest office in the Church. Now, almost 8 years later, he decided to retire. We pray for Pope Benedict, that he may be richly “blessed” by God, also after his resignation.”
Bishop Hans van den Hende of Rotterdam also expressed his surprise at today’s news. He expressed the hope that the Pope would continue to travel with us in prayer, “in the pilgrimage that our life on earth most deeply is”. He asked all faithful in the diocese to pray for Pope Benedict and the Church.
More than seven years after the publication of Summorum Pontificum, which ’freed up’ the use of the traditional form of the Mass, the so-called Extraordinary Form, as it was used for centuries before the liturgy changes of the Second Vatican Council, a milestone is reached for the Catholics in the Netherlands: for the first time a Dutch bishop will offer Mass in this form.
The date is next Sunday, 20 January, and the bishop in question is the retired auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, Msgr. Jan van Burgsteden.
The FSSP-run church of St. Agnes in Amsterdam will be the location and shares the news on her website. This church is no stranger to EF Masses offered by bishops or higher clergy, as she has hosted Bishop Kozon of Copenhagen and Cardinal Burke in the past. Like the former, Bishop van Burgsteden will administer the Sacrament of Confirmation to ten faithful before the Mass.
According to the website linked above, the bishop is delighted to offer Mass in the form which was standard when he was ordained to the priesthood in 1964.
The Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam is perhaps the most welcoming Dutch diocese for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. The diocesan seminary offers training or seminarians and priests, and both the ordinary, Bishop Jos Punt, and the current auxiliary, Bishop Jan Hendriks, attended the Mass offered by Cardinal Burke in choir. Most recently, Bishop Punt announced that the church of St. Agnes will be the home of a personal parish run by the FSSP, which regularises church and priests in the diocese and gives the Extraordinary Form a solid place within the liturgical landscape of the Church in the Netherlands.
It’s a week ago now, but I figured it would be nice to give an impression of how the Year of Faith was opened in the Netherlands. All dioceses marked the occasion with special Masses in either the cathedral or another major church in the diocese.
The Archdiocese of Utrecht played host to a national symposium on the four great Constitutions of the Second Vatican Council. Some 250 people attended, a number that could perhaps have been higher if the symposium wasn’t open to clergy and pastoral workers only.
The Mass which started off the symposium was offered by Wim Cardinal Eijk, the archbishop of Utrecht. In his homily he looked back at the fruits of the Council, but also the responses to it. The cardinal noted that, “On the one hand there are people who are disappointed, because the Council did not bring the fruits they had hoped for. And on the other hand there are people who make the reproach that the current crisis in the Church was caused by the Council.” He went on to say that both responses are unjust. The roots of secularisation were already laid well before the Council – as, for example, Blessed Titus Brandsma already noticed – and the discussion about celibacy and liturgy was already being held in the 1950s.
In Breda Bishop Jan Liesen, pictured at right during the symposium mentioned above, offered a Mass in the cathedral of St. Anthony. About the Year of Faith he said:
“The Year of Faith is a year in which to listen to God, to the spirit which has been poured out in our hearts. Put differently: our Church does not revolve around an organisation, but around a living person, Christ. The Gospels speak of how Jesus continuously presented people with the question, “Who do you say I am?” Other religions may have a book, a great way of life or something. We Christians do not have that, at least not as the heart of our faith: we have the person of Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Liesen also spoke about our spiritual life, which we need to nurture in order to be evangelisers ourselves.
“To make work of your spiritual life – how do you do that? It is a matter of choosing, really choosing. In our time we have somewhat forgotten what choosing is, maybe or probably because we have such material wealth. We can walk past shop windows in long shopping streets and pick what we like. We then think that we have made a choice, but we haven’t. We were looking for something and left much where it was and brought that one thing home, but that is not choosing. There comes a time when we don’t like what we have brought home anymore and then we’ll get something else. That is not choosing: it is merely the satisfaction of a desire, whether it is real or imaginary. Because of such a materialistic way of life, which is being promoted in all manners imaginable and which we should not underestimate or make illusions about when it concerns ourselves – because of that way of life we sometimes deal with people in the same way, and we drop them when they no longer suit us. But really choosing when it concerns a person means: choosing that one as he or she is and not dripping them to choose another. That is the basis of true friendship, that is the basis of marriage and family, and that is also the basis of spiritual life, of the conversation with God.”
The final topic that Bishop Liesen touched upon was the Eucharist. He re-emphasised the central place that that sacrament has in our faith, and his desire (and presumably intention as well) to cut down the number of Communion service in his diocese. These services have, in many places, become more of a habit and a celebration of the community instead of a necessity when there is no priest available, and water down the valuable role of the Eucharist in our lives.
In the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, the Year of Faith was opened at the shrine of Our Lady of Need in Heiloo. In his homily, auxiliary Bishop Jan Hendriks spoke about faith, saying:
“Faith is a mercy and we can be grateful that we have received that mercy.
Faith requires surrender, giving up control, confidence that you are safe in the loving care of a heavenly Father, that everything will turn out alright, no matter how many setbacks and suffering you may find on your way.
No matter how much evil and how many problems there are: because of faith our life is an ascent to God. Without faith it would be nothing but decomposition, descent, a pointless event with a sad ending.
Faith also requires humility, because it entails us bowing down for a higher power, for someone who can dictate the law to you.
Our Catholic faith lets us know Jesus, our Saviour and Lord. It lets us understand the Holy Spirit, who resides in our hearts and gently leads us to the heavenly Father, who is source and purpose of all of creation.
Through our Catholic faith we also got to know and venerate Mary, who is our Mother through Jesus, as an example of faith, as intercessor and mediator.”
And about evangelisation, he added:
“Whatever we do in the Church, we must first be Christians.
Every priest, every believer must first be a Christian.
The work that we do in the Church can’t be an exterior job, but an expression of our love for Christ, expression of our faith.”
Bishop Antoon Hurkmans, who opened the Year of Faith in the cathedral basilica of St. John in Den Bosch, spoke about having faith in our time:
“Today every faithful is individually faced with a great challenge. The Second Vatican Council already foresaw this. This Council was intended to bring the Church up to date, a way of returning to the source. It again placed Holy Scripture at the heart. It looked for the vital sources of the Church of the future in the young Church of the Church Fathers. You and I, we are confronted with an increasingly secularised world. We shouldn’t want to walk away from that. We should be strong by resisting the difficulties of this time and witness of our faith in the world of today, with the sources of the Council. There are numerous difficulties. The Church in our part of the world grows smaller, we must dispose of church buildings. It’ll be increasingly difficult to pass on the faith to future generations. Acting according to the faith in marriage, in celibacy, in politics is increasingly at odds with what’s going on in society. What matters now is to believe or not: to entrust yourself to God. To travel the way with Him. When you have faith, confess this faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit openly. God will take care of you. He will give you life. Confess your faith in the Church. Do not stay alone. Participate, as the Council asks, in the life of the Church. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Church’s life. Be there, every Sunday. Immerse yourself in the liturgy, in Holy Scripture and never forget to serve the poor. Faith must be expressed in action.”
In Roermond Bishop Frans Wiertz referred to the collection of ten local Saints and Blesseds, from 4th-century St. Servatius to St. Teresia Benedicta of the Cross, who was killed in Auschwitz in 1942, who were gathered in the cathedral of St. Christopher as examples of the faith. The bishop said about this:
“We are gathered here as faithful from all directions of our local Church. And we are not alone, but in the presence of a number of prominent blesseds and saints from our area, men and women who represent the faith of many centuries, who represent all those people who preceded us in the faith.”
In the Diocese of Rotterdam, Bishop Hans van den Hende opened the Year of Faith in the Basilica of St. Liduina and Our Lady of the Rosary in Schiedam. In his homily he discussed Pope Benedict’s Apostolic letter Porta Fidei, in which the Holy Father announced the Year of Faith, and on the Second Vatican Council, but also on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Code of Canon Law. Summarising the Year of Faith, the bishops said:
“The Year of Faith, brothers and sisters, regards all aspects of our life in faith. To confess that God exists, that His Son became men, that the Holy Spirit always wants to inspire us. To celebrate our faith in the Eucharist and the other sacraments and to be careful with the Words of Scripture. We do so as true listeners to the message of God and also by truly living as Christians and to be recognisable in our words and actions as friends of the Lords, and fourth, to keep up the conversation with the Lord.”
In Groningen, Bishop Gerard de Korte also opened the Year of Faith, with a Mass at the cathedral of St. Joseph, but the text of his homily is sadly not available online.
Photo credit: ,  Ramon Mangold,  Peter van Mulken
Ever since the announcement of the Year of Faith, which starts in October, the Dutch dioceses and bishops have been planning and organising a number of events to mark the occasion. Here follows a short list, sorted by date, of events and announcements concerning the Year of Faith:
3 July: The Diocese of Breda publishes a special diocesan magazine about the Second Vatican Council, including an informative poster (front page at right).
4 July: The Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam will offer several courses in the vein of the Year of Faith throughout 2012 and 2013. Courses include ‘What is faith?’, ‘the Second Vatican Council’, ‘Christian art’, ‘Theology of spirituality’ and and an impulse day on the missionary Church.
5 July: The Dioceses of Rotterdam and Breda announce a joint magazine on the new evangelisation. Publication will be in the summer in Breda and around Christmas in Rotterdam.
18 July: The Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch present its two-year course ‘Growing in faith’ in the light of the Year of Faith, as a means to rediscover the joy of the faith.
19 July: The Archdiocese of Utrecht sends the informative poster about the Second Vatican Council, that was created by the Diocese of Breda, to all her priests, deacons and pastoral workers. In his accompanying letter, Cardinal Eijk writes, “I hope that you, also in your own parish, will be willing to give form to the Year of Faith in a suitable way.”
September, October, November: The diocesan magazine of Haarlem-Amsterdam will devote issues to the Year of Faith.
11 October: The Diocese of Breda opens the Year of Faith with a pontifical High Mass offered by Bishop Liesen. The Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam will do likewise at the Shrine of Our Lady of Need in Heiloo. Clergy and pastoral workers are afterwards invited to attend a lecture on faith in postmodern times.
12 October: The Dutch Bishops’ Conference organises a symposium on the Second Vatican Council, focussing on the four Apostolic Constitutions, in Utrecht. Clergy and pastoral workers throughout the country are invited. Preceding the symposium is a pontifical High Mass, and a Vespers celebration will close the day.
14 October: The Year of Faith will be opened in the Diocese of Roermond with a pontifical High Mass.
12 April: A study day on the Second Vatican Council will be held at the Tiltenberg in the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam. Auxiliary Bishop Jan Hendriks will contribute.
While this list is far from complete (much may be added in the coming months), one thing is striking: much is aimed at priests, deacons and pastoral workers. Events for lay faithful, while present, are much less in evidence. This may point at two things: firstly, that clergy and pastoral workers are expected to communicate the content to the faithful in the pews, and secondly, that it is the clergy and the pastoral workers who need the Year of Faith just as much, if not more, as we lay faithful do.
And although many more events may (and should) be organised for and by Joe Faithful, this last option may not be that far-fetched…
In what is perhaps the most significant step taken by a Dutch diocese in the wake of the abuse crisis, the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam has decided to make public all sexual abuse cases concerning priests of the diocese between 1945 and today. A special section of the diocesan website now features information on four cases in which some settlement has been reached, four which are still being investigated, and finally two statements on specific abuse cases. In some cases the accused priest is specifically named upon the request of the victim(s) or on the advice of the nationwide Meldpunt Seksueel Misbruik.
The Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam is without doubt the most visibly active diocese in the Netherlands in the fight against sexual abuse of minors by clerics. The ordinary, Bishop Jos Punt, has written several letters to keep the faithful informed about progress made and steps taken and has frequently met with victims or their families. Auxiliary Bishop Jan Hendriks has spoken out about the crisis as well, both on the diocesan website and his personal website.
This step, to make public the running and finalised cases against priests of the diocese, both alive and deceased, is a difficult but laudable step in the process of getting this terrible tragedy behind us. Ultimately, it is a matter of justice.
After the bishops last reshuffled their responsibilities within the conference, last September, following four new addition to their roster in the previous two years, one member of the conference retired and a new one joined. So this week, it was time to do some additional reshuffling to give Bishop Jan Hendriks, auxiliary of Haarlem-Amsterdam, some specified responsibilities and re-evaluate some of the others.
Bishop Hendriks (pictured) took over the Education portfolio from Bishop Everard de Jong. The latter received a newly created portfolio, of Pastoral Care in the fields of Health Care and Justice. Bishop hendriks also takes over the portfolios of New Movements and Religious and Secular Institues from his immediate predecessor, Bishop Jan van Burgsteden
Two other bishops also received new portfolios: Bishop Hans van den Hende received that of Ecumenism, previously held by retired Bishop van Burgsteden, who, despite his retirement, received the Interreligious Dialogue portfolio from Bishop van den Hende.
The entire list of bishops and their portfolios now looks like this:
- Bishop Everard de Jong, auxiliary of Roermond: Categorial Pastoral Care in Health Care and Justice
- Bishop Gerard de Korte, ordinary of Groningen-Leeuwarden: Church and the Elderly, Church and Society & Women and Church
- Archbishop Wim Cardinal Eijk, ordinary of Utrecht: Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, Medical Ethics & Vocation and Formation
- Bishop Jan Hendriks, auxiliary of Haarlem-Amsterdam: New Movements, Education & Religious and Secular Institutes
- Bishop Theodorus Hoogenboom, auxiliary of Utrecht: Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community
- Bishop Antoon Hurkmans, ordinary of ‘s Hertogenbosch: Marriage and family
- Bishop Jan Liesen, ordinary of Breda: Liturgy
- Bishop Rob Mutsaerts, auxiliary of ‘s Hertogenbosch: Catechesis & Youth
- Bishop Jos Punt, ordinary of Haarlem-Amsterdam: Mission and Development & Categorial Pastoral Care
- Bishop Jan van Burgsteden, emeritus auxiliary of Haarlem-Amsterdam: Interreligious Dialogue
- Bishop Hans van den Hende, ordinary of Rotterdam: Ecumenism
- Bishop Frans Wiertz, ordinary of Roermond: Communication and Media
- Bishop Herman Woorts, auxiliary of Utrecht: Pilgrimages & Relations with Judaism
It is striking to see that, in the past six months, Bishop de Jong has lost all the previous portfolios he held, although he gained a newly created one. Similarly, Bishop van Burgsteden, despite his retirement, still retains one portfolio. But then again, that is in line with his expressed desire to continue being available for some duties.
“You don’t control the results, but that does not change the obligation to do the best we can. There is an essential element of freedom in there. You belong to the Roman Catholic Church because you want to, as conviction you gladly have. Many “enrolled” as children, but it must be confirmed at some point. If it isn’t, it remains something superficial and will not bear fruit. For the intended effect of sowing is for it to take root and bear fruit.”
Words from Bishop Jan Liesen, spoken in an interview with Katholiek Nieuwsblad, prior to his installation as bishop of Breda tomorrow. The installation Mass, which will be concelebrated by Bishop Liesen, his predecessor, Bishop Hans van den Hende, Archbishop Wim Eijk of Utrecht, Bishop Antoon Hurkmans of ‘s Hertogenbosch (where Msgr. Liesen has been auxiliary bishop), other bishops present, and members of the cathedral chapter. The new Nuncio to the Netherlands, Archbishop André Dupuy, will not yet be present. Instead, the Holy See will be represented by Msgr. Habib Thomas Halim, secretary of the nunciature in The Hague.
With some 500 people invited, the Mass is closed to visitors, simply because of the relatively small size of the Cathedral of St. Anthony. Priority has been given to representatives of the parishes of the diocese, as well as various dignitaries. In addition to the bishops mentioned above, Bishop Wiertz, De Korte, Punt, Mutsaerts, Hoogenboom and Hendriks will also be present, as well as Bishops Bonny and De Kesel from the two Belgian dioceses that border Breda, and the emeriti Cardinal Simonis, and Bishops Ernst, Muskens and Van Burgsteden.
The Queen’s Commissioners in the provinces of Zeeland and Noord-Brabant, the mayor of Breda and the governor of the Royal Military Academy, which is located in Breda, will also attend the Mass or the following reception.