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Just because I can, a news roundup from the Dutch dioceses. Let’s take a look at what’s been going on in the various corners of the Church province.
Led by Cardinal Eijk, some 100 faithful from the Archdiocese of Utrecht have been on pilgrimage to Rome this week. They visited various churches (Cardinal Eijk’s title church San Callisto, Saint Peter’s, the Church of the Frisians, Saint Mary Major (pictured) and Saint John Lateran), celebrated Mass at the tomb of Saint Peter, saw the sights and capped the trip off with today’s general audience with Pope Francis. Cardinal Eijk offered Mass every day in concelebration with the accompanying and some local priests.
In the Diocese of Breda, the Franciscan sisters in Bergen op Zoom celebrated the 175th anniversary of their diocesan congregation’s existence. They did so in the presence of Bishop Jan Liesen and other guests, and also used the day to reopen their chapel after a year of restoration work. As the congregation also has a thriving sister house in Indonesia, Bishop Michael Angkur of the Diocese of Bogor was also present. With his entourage, he visited other congregations (and some local sights) in the diocese as well.
Also in Breda, the pilgrims to the World Youth Day in Rio had their first reunion (pictured). They did so at Bovendonk seminary. The pilgrims looked back on the weeks in Suriname and in Rio de Janeiro, sharing their experiences with each other and with those who stayed at home to take part in WYD@Home.
The Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam bade farewell to its vicar general, Msgr. Martin de Groot (pictured at left with Bishop Jan Hendriks), after 50 years of service in the diocese. The farewell took place with a choral evensong in Amsterdam’s Basilica of St. Nicholas followed by a reception. In addition to the diocese’s Bishops Punt, Hendriks and Van Burgsteden, Rotterdam’s Bishop van den Hende and Utrecht’s auxiliary Bishop Hoogenboom were present, reflecting the wide-ranging duties that Msgr. de Groot performed in and beyond his diocese.
Also in Haarlem-Amsterdam, a unique appointment: the first female Magister Cantus (or, in this case, Magistra Cantus) of the Netherlands. On Sunday Ms. Sanne Nieuwenhuijsen will be installed as such by Bishop Punt. She will have responsibility for the music in the cathedral basilica of St. Bavo, the musical institute connected to it and the choirs. She has been conducting the cathedral choir since 2010.
Photo credit:  aartsbisdom.nl,  bisdombreda.nl,  Isabel Nabuurs
Happy birthday to Bisho Theodorus Cornelis Maria Hoogenboom, who today marks his 53rd birthday.
Bishop Hoogenboom was born in Oudewater, and became a priest and later auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Utrecht.
In the days after the funeral of Bishop Jan Bluyssen, last Thursday, I’ve been reading a fair amount of criticism on how the Mass was performed. It was not in line with how the late bishop would have wanted it, some say. The large number of representatives of Church and state, the guild members in their folkloristic costumes, the clerics in cardinal red and bishop’s purple… all this are not becoming a bishop who was close to the people, who was loath to portray himself as lording it over the laity, who was, for many, a man among men, trying his best to serve the Lord and His Church as a bishop.
It should be noted here, that the funeral Mass was offered according to the liturgy of the Church. Attending bishops and other clergy were there to pay their respects to Bishop Bluyssen and they did so as prelates of the Church, which is not a 9-to-5 job, but, in lieu of their ordination, their identity. Bishop Bluyssen would have worn his liturgical clothing for the very same reason.
^Bishops attending the funeral Mass of Bishop Bluyssen. Clockwise from the top: Frans Wiertz (Roermond), Gerard de Korte (Groningen-Leeuwarden), Everard de Jong (aux. Roermond), Theodorus Hoogenboom (aux. Utrecht) and Joseph Lescrauwaet (aux. em. of Haarlem-Amsterdam). Behind them Cardinal Simonis.
Funerals are important. They are the final moment in which friends and family can bid farewell to a loved one, and a time to mourn that person. In that light, it is understandable that people feel ill at ease when a funeral seems to be about something else than the person being mourned. But when the funeral takes place from a Church, when the deceased (and hopefully his or her family and friends) are Catholic, there is an important element to the funeral that secular ceremonies lack. It is a Mass, so the first and most important focus is on Christ, and the deceased is seen and remembered in His light.
What does that mean for the Catholic Church funeral Mass? Is mourning and remembering out of the question? Certainly not, but there are two things we need to consider: death is not the end, and those left behind are not powerless in the face of death.
A person’s life on earth has ended, but we believe that the soul is immortal and will return to its Creator, barring any obstacles. Prayer is the most powerful tool we have to make sure those obstacles are removed or diminished, and that is where we, those left behind come in. Our prayer is an act of love for the person we miss.
The funeral Mass is a Mass. That means that it is primarily the remembrance and actualisation of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, the single most redemptive event in our entire history. Christ defeated death by rising after three days. Our loved one who has passed away follows our Lord in death, in the hope of one day rising with Him. Here, our prayer comes in again.
Catholic funerals, then, are not first and foremost a remembrance or even a celebration of the life that has ended. It is our sending off the deceased into the hands of the One who defeated death once and for all, and the start of our duty of prayer towards him or her.
The funeral Mass should be considered, planned and discussed out of its identity as a Mass. All other elements, such as eulogies and music, must be measured against this. And then, sometimes, the conclusion must be made (by the person who is responsible for the liturgy of the Mass: the priest) that some things are not suitable for Mass, but can be more suitable for a separate occasion before or after the Mass.
The Mass is the Mass is the Mass: we leave our beloved in the hands of the Lord and help him or her with our prayers, in the faithful hope of being reunited one day, as we follow the example of the first to rise from the dead: Jesus Christ. This transcends any personal preferences or opinions. Jesus can’t be left out of the equation. In the end, a person’s life comes to fullness in the light of the Lord, and there is no better memory than entrusting him to that light and expecting a future reunion.
^ Bishop Hurkmans incenses the coffin and mortal remains of Bishop Bluyssen, just like the offerings to the Lord, and the Word we receive from Him, are incensed during the Mass.
Photo credit: Ramon Mangold
A week after its publication date of Ash Wednesday, I finished my translation of Cardinal Eijk’s Pastoral Letter on the Eucharist. The letter was sent to all parishes in the Archdiocese of Utrecht, to foster “reflection and consideration, individually and communally, on the meaning of the Eucharist as source and summit of Christian life,” as auxiliary Bishop Hoogenboom writes in the accompanying letter of recommendation.
Whatever cause and reason for the letter, it is a very good letter for all Catholics, as it offers a thorough introduction to what the Eucharist is and how we relate to it, in all its myriad aspects. If you don’t have any reading for Lent, I suggest this pastoral letter. It’s a lengthy read, but offers plenty of good food for thought.
The Eucharist is source and summit of our lives as Christians. We owe it to ourselves and to the Lord to know what we are doing and what we are talking about, if we in any way take ourselves seriously as Catholics.
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.
Yesterday, the major symposium on sexual abuse in the Church, “Toward Healing and Renewal”, began at the Pontifical Gregorian University with an address by Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. This Congregation is, of course, the one to deal with the most serious crimes, the graviora delicta, against faith, the sacraments, and also sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy.
Cardinal Levada is the first of several speakers at the symposium, which will end on Thursday. The addresses of other speakers, including that of abuse victim Marie Collins, are available in several languages here. In addition, Cardinal Levada’s address is also available in Dutch.
These are valuable texts, and should be read and consider with such documents as the pope’s letter to the faithful of Ireland and the Circular Letter that Cardinal Levada uses as the basis for his address. The Church’s response to the abuse crisis, at the highest level, is formulated here.
Attending the symposium are representatives of some 100 bishops’ conferences. Representing the Netherlands is Bishop Theodorus Hoogenboom.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis
“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.