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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.
An important step on the road to this autumn’s Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation yesterday: the publication of its Instrumentum laboris, the document outlining the points that will be discussed at the convocation of bishops from all over the world, and is the result of questions that we submitted after the initial Lineamenta was published in March.
The focus of the Synod, the New Evangelisation, is an important one. If applied correctly and effectively, it will be a great aid in overcoming our speechlessness about our faith.
Attached to the Instrumentum is a foreword by Archbishop Nicola Eterovic (pictured at right, during the presentation of an earlier Instrumentum in 2008), the general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, which serves as an introduction to the entire document. I have that text available in a Dutch translation.
Also today, it was announced which bishops will represent Belgium at the Synod. They are Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Malines-Brussels and Bishop Jozef De Kesel of Bruges. Dutch bishops have not been named yet, but likely candidates are Cardinal Eijk, as well as Bishops Mutsaerts (who holds the Catechesis portfolio in the Conference) and De Korte (Church & Society). But any guess is as good as mine. We’ll have to wait and see.
Photo credit:  Reuters,  Emanuela de Meo/CPP
In an interview for Tertio, Cardinal Eijk spoke about a future new and more accurate translation of the Mass texts. Preciously little has been revealed about this project, which apparently is still ongoing. It’s good to now have some new information about the effort, even though the instruction calling for a revision of the existing texts dates from 2001.
Cardinal Eijk explained:
“Because our language area is not that big, we do not have very many experts available. The procedure takes a lot of time because there has to be a continuous exchange between the experts, the mixed committee in which two Dutch and two Flemish bishops have a seat, and the other bishops. Additionally, the pontifical instruction ‘Liturgiam Authenticam‘ expressly requires [a new translation] to be as faithful to the Latin source text as possible. That needs to be reconciled with a sufficiently fluent and understandable language in Dutch. That is not an easy task because there are a fair number of differences between northern and southern Dutch. For example, it is unlikely that we will be able to achieve a unified version of the Our Father.”
In the mixed committee for the new translation, Bishops Hans van den Hende, Antoon Hurkmans, Jozef De Kesel and Johan Bonny have a seat. But, now that the liturgy portfolio within the Dutch Bishops’ Conference has gone from Bishop Hurkmans to Bishop Liesen, the latter could conceivably take a seat in the committee.
“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.
From an unknown source come the words of Bishop De Kesel of Bruges about the Second Vatican Council.
Let’s have a look:
“The renewal that the Council had heralded so promising, has not come to pass, at least not to the scale that people had imagined. The Council pleaded for a greater openness to modern culture. And rightly so. But modern culture unavoidably means a secular culture and a secular culture equally unavoidably means a non-Christian culture. That is something that the Council and the following post-conciliar renewal has insufficiently recognised. On the contrary, it sooner thought that openness to modern culture would lead to a return to an admittedly modern, but yet also Christian culture. Which did not happen. Which obviously did not happen. A much more fundamental process of change in western culture was what it was about. It was not, and still is not only about a Church which was to adapt to the new culture. It was about this culture, as a culture, bidding farewell to Christianity. And for Christianity this does not mean the end, but the end of a status that it had had here for centuries: that of a cultural religion, the religion that grounded culture and held it together and was therefore universally recognised and accepted. The Council itself could do nothing about this process of change, which was not on the agenda of the Council. It is a process of change that started long before the Council and which continued after the Council. The question remains not so much how the Church should continue to adapt to modern culture, but what it means to be Church in a modern and therefore thoroughly secular, non-Christian world.
We continue to think that, if the Church would reach out to modern culture, that that culture would once again stand up for her. We are still searching for the adapted liturgy of the new language which would finally solve the problem of the loss of relevance of Christianity. But it remains to be seen if we will ever find it. In that way we keep on suffering from a fundamental and unspoken frustration in our pastoral work, our way of being Church and of Church renewal.
It is not right that a Church which consistently modernises would again convince everyone. It is hard and painful to accept that the Gospel is no longer considered relevant for everyone. A Church that is more consistently adapted to modernity will not lead to a return to the past. It will never again be like the past. In a lengthy process of which Vaticanum II was merely a symptom, the west had not only bid farewell to a certain unadapted form of Christian, but has Christianity steadily ceased to be the cultural religion of western civilisation.”
The piece sounds a bit defeatist to my ears. I agree with the bishop’s claim that constant renewal and adaptation will not lead to a new flourishing of the Church (in whatever form the proponents of constant renewal imagine). The Church is what she is, and although far from inflexible, her teachings and faith make her what she is. Changing these would mean changing the very essence of the Catholic Church founded by Jesus Christ.
Bishop De Kesel is also right in his statements that there no longer exists a cultural Christianity in the west. But I don’t think that that is what the Second Vatican Council aimed for in the Constitution Gaudium et Spes. This proposed an openness to the world, not an adaptation to the world. Gaudium et Spes put into words the reality of the Church in the world, without losing sight of her identity of purpose:
While helping the world and receiving many benefits from it, the Church has a single intention: that God’s kingdom may come, and that the salvation of the whole human race may come to pass. For every benefit which the People of God during its earthly pilgrimage can offer to the human family stems from the fact that the Church is “the universal sacrament of salvation”, simultaneously manifesting and exercising the mystery of God’s love. 
The Church and the Christian faith have been reduced to themselves, Bishop De Kesel seems to say, and that is just how it is. We can’t reclaim the past and we can’t (shouldn’t) adapt to merge with modernity. I think that the bishop has addressed the heart of the matter in these words: the adaptations that have taken place in the name of the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ to get the Church more in line with the world have led to nothing. But I also think that the issue is more complicated than pictured here. The renewal of the Council is yet to be completed, not according to the framework given by modern culture, but by that of Tradition. And in that sense, we, the members of the Church, still need to learn to adapt.
A little over a year since the appointment of a new archbishop, the Brussels episcopate returns to full force. As has become standard in the Belgian archdiocese, the three vicariates (Brussels, Brabant Wallon and Flemish Brabant & Malines) are headed by one auxiliary bishop each. When Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard started his job in succession of Cardinal Danneels, two of these vicariates still had their auxiliaries in place, but soon after a reshuffle which saw Bishop De Kesel switch vicariates, Archbishop Léonard was left with no auxiliaries at all. Bishop Jozef de Kesel went to Bruges and Bishop Remy Vancottem to Léonard’s old stomping grounds in Namur.
Today, Brussels and Rome simultaneously announced the appointment of three auxiliary bishops. Pictured above with the archbishop they are, from left to right; Msgr. Léon Lemmens (56), who will be the vicar for Flemish Brabant & Malines; Msgr. Jean Kockerols (52) for Brussels; and Msgr. Jean-Luc Hudsyn for Brabant Wallon (63). The three new bishops will be consecrated at the National Basilica in Koekelberg on 3 April.
Non of the three new episcopal faces are that familiar, but the question unavoidable rises: what school of clergy do they represent? The one at odds with Catholic teachings and their own archbishop, or the small percentage who are firmly at home in the Catholic Church and their own archdiocese? That will remain to be seen. It is perhaps indicative that Archbishop Léonard welcomed the appointments: “The new auxiliary bishops have much complementary pastoral experience. [...] We entrust them to your prayer so that the Lord may help them in their new pastoral mission.”
Msgr. Léonard also plans to give them each a task beyond their responsibilities in the vicariates, based on his pastoral priorities and the individual competences of the bishops.
Bishop elect Lemmens is a priest of the Diocese of Hasselt, ordained in 1977. His titular see will be Municipa in modern Algeria. Bishop elect Kockerols was the dean of Brussels South and director of the Centre d’Etudes Pastorales. His see will be Ypres in Belgium. He was ordained in 1993 for the archdiocese. Lastly, Bishop elect Hudsyn already was the vicar for Brabant Wallon. He was ordained for the archdiocese in 1972 and will have the titular see of Apt, in the south of France, as that diocese’s first titular bishop.
Photo credit: BELGA/Julien Warnard
It may be the time of year when nothing much seems to be happening – unless you’re a Belgian bishop – and he may be about to leave for his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, but Pope Benedict XVI has shown once again to be on top of things when it comes to appointing bishops in striken dioceses. First Bruges only had to wait a few months before seeing Msgr. De Kesel replace Bishop Vangheluwe, now Augsburg gets a new shepherd to succeed Bishop Walter Mixa, who resigned amid a storm of confusion and accusations to and fro. 66-year-old Bishop Konrad Zdarsa will go from Görlitz, where he was appointed only three years ago, to Augsburg. Let’s hope he gets along will with that diocese’s two auxiliary bishops and staff.
In a bit of random-yet-interesting trivia, Katholiek Nederland reports that the government of Bavaria has the right to veto any episcopal appointments in that state. Bishop Zdarsa passed their scrutiny, though.
A few days late, but here they are nonetheless (mostly for myself, I’ll admit)
June was a slightly better month than May, although the news and the topics I wrote about diminished a bit in the second half of the month. 3,652 page views were registered, bringing the total since the beginning of January to 22,582. As I thought, it did indeed cross the 20,000 somewhere around mid-June.
The ten most popular posts were the following:
1: A gentle pope, but rock solid in the execution (167)
2: St. Boniface Day 2010 (130)
3: Ouellet to the Congregation for Bishops (81)
4: The curious case of Bishop Walter Mixa (68)
5: Cardinal Newman to be beatified by the pope, officially announced (62)
6: Introductie op de Geest van de Liturgie – onofficiële vertaling (60)
7: Msgr. De Kesel to Bruges? Wow (54)
8: Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form in Amsterdam (52)
9: A difficult choice in the voting booth (48)
10: Father Cor Mennen had better look out… perhaps (44)
The high ranking of my post about the St. Boniface Day is mainly due to a link from my favourite Dutch blogger (for a giving value of ‘favourite’), who saw fit to use it as one more tool to attack my bishop, albeit not very convincingly (seriously, I’m suddenly an authority on how many people attend an event?). Anyway, spike in stats – always nice.
Speaking of bishops, they and other curia members were the trend in the search terms. Msgr. Gänswein (yes, still), Bishop Mixa and the Venerable Cardinal Newman were all popular.
And lastly, can I say how very happy I am to see my translation of Msgr. Marini’s address on the liturgy still lingering in the top 10? Oh, I just did.
He’s been moved around a bit within the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels, but now the news breaks that Bishop Jozef De Kesel will be the new Bishop of Bruges. Only in March did Archbishop Léonard name him vicar general for the vicariate Flemish Brabant and Malines. With this appointment, Léonard is left with no auxiliaries, despite his express desire to have a third one appointed. But then Bishop Vancottem was sent to Namur and now Bishop De Kesel goes to Bruges.
Seen from the archdiocese, it looks like stages in a new start. First the most orthodox bishop in the Church province is sent there and now the former auxiliaries are sent off to head their own dioceses. That certainly leaves Archbishop Léonard free to suggest his own candidates for the episcopate.
As for Bruges, it went unexpectedly fast. The previous bishop, Msgr. Roger Vangheluwe, resigned in April and the expectation was then that it would take at least a year before a new bishop was appointed. In the end it took almost exactly two months. Bruges has been left in shock by the unexpected news of Vangheluwe’s abuse history, so I can imagine the diocese will benefit greatly with having a new bishop so soon. After all, a clear head of the diocese provides a sense of stability.
Msgr. De Kesel, then, was quite popular in his time in Malines-Brussels. He has been auxiliary bishop there since 2002. His recent appointments, first to a new vicariate and now to Bruges, may also show some measure of confidence in him from Brussels and Rome.
Some facts about the bishop-elect: Msgr. De Kesel is 63, born in Ghand, where he was also ordained a priest in 1972. His uncle was Bishop Leo De Kesel, auxiliary bishop of Ghand from 1961 to 1990. Between 1980 and 1996, Msgr. De Kesel was rector of the seminary in Ghand, where he also taught dogmatic and fundamental theology. He also taught at the Diocesan Religious Institute in that city, and taught Christology at the Catholic University of Louvain. An educated man, it would seem, with his theological roots firmly in the very basis of theology.
Despite all the bad news from Belgium today and yesterday, this is a reason to be glad, especially for Bruges.