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On his first full day as Pope emeritus Benedict XVI offered Mass, read in the books he brought with him and took a walk through the Castel Gandolfo gardens while praying the Rosary. The evening before, which capped an eventful day the likes of which the Church has never seen before, and most likely will not see for a long time, Benedict spent watching the news and reading some of the messages he received. Father Federico Lombardi told the assembled press this in what was the first of daily press briefings during the sede vacante.
Reading this today was actually rather comforting, because yesterday was quite eventful, even for one who watched the main events via the Vatican video player. As unlikely as it may sometimes seem, there was definitely a personal factor; it was less the departure of a high official, and more the passing of a beloved family member. While the morning meeting with the cardinals assembled in Rome (pictured above) was a very affectionate event, with quite a lot of smiles and laughter (standing out was the joke and the laugh that Cardinal Tagle seemingly shared with the Holy Father), the afternoon was totally different.
The tone was set with the first appearance of the Pope on the screen, bidding his farewells to the vicars general of his diocese, Cardinals Vallini and Comastri. Neither kept a dry eye, and especially touching I found Cardinal Vallini briefly squeezing Archbishop Gänswein’s hand as a sign of support. The latter subsequently had to employ a tissue to dry his eyes as well.
And then, after the fifteen-minute helicopter flight to Castel Gandolfo, there was the epilogue to almost eight years of Benedict XVI, and it was as simple and to the point as the Pope emeritus himself.
Thank you all!
Dear friends, I am happy to be with you, surrounded by the beauty of Creation and your affection that does me much good. Thank you for your friendship, your love, [applause] …
You know that this day for me is different from previous ones: I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church: until eight in the evening I will be still, and then no longer. I am simply a pilgrim who begins the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth.
But I wish still [applause - thank you!] … but I wish still with my heart, my love, my prayer, my reflection, with all my inner strength, to work for the common good and the good of the Church and of humanity. And I feel very much supported by your affection.
Let’s go forward with the Lord for the good of the Church and the world.
Thank you, I give you now [applause] … with all my heart, my blessing.
Thank you, good night! Thank you all!”
And so, a final two-handed wave (not unlike, as some have noted, that first gesture we saw back in April of 2005), and the Pope returned inside. And then, less than three hours later, it was over. The doors closed, the Swiss Guards returned to their barracks, and the sede vacante began.
It was a farewell: we have seen our last of Benedict. But it’s not a farewell: he is still there with us, not in plain sight, but as close as ever in prayer and in the unity of the Holy Spirit. So, while we mourn a loss, we have also gained something. But it will take some getting used too, that much is certain.
Via the Catholic News Service comes an interesting glimpse at what it’s like to translate the writings of Pope Benedict XVI. Msgr. Philip Whitmore translated the Holy Father’s latest book, the third installment of his “Jesus of Nazareth” series, and reveals some of the peculiarities of such a job.
I have to admit finding it quite funny that the Holy Father has a new book out and all that the media generally talk about are his unconscionable attack on two helpless animals’ presence in the Nativity scene.
Jesus of Nazareth: the Infancy Narratives is the third and final volume in Pope Benedict XVI’s series of books on Jesus Christ. It is, like its predecessors, a personal study into Christ’s life and person. The historical Jesus is a subject that the pope treats extensively, and so is it as well with the Nativity stories we find in the Gospels. And from that historical perspective, there is no reason to say that an ox or ass were present in the stable where Jesus was born. And, in addition, the angels probably did not sing either when the announced the Good News to the shepherds.
Is the pope then saying that we should remove all oxen and asses, as well as any angels which show an unhistorical tendency to start singing, from our Nativity scenes? Of course not. While we may not have a historical basis for these details, they do have their function. Christ came to all Creation, and was a part of it as a man. Song is an ancient way of communicating joy, and the arrival of God-become-man is certainly a reason for joy.
And the ox and ass or the singing angels are not the focus of the Nativity scenes in our homes and churches. Christ is, and everything around Him focusses our attention on Him. So another function of the ass and ox becomes clear.
So, no, the Holy Father is not telling us to get rid of the poor animals. They’ll be in the great Nativity scene in St. Peter’s square, even without us having any documents to prove their presence at the birth of our Saviour.
“Instead of a vaccine that numbs, we must be a medicine that heals.”
Words from Archbishop André Dupuy, Apostolic Nuncio to the Netherlands, at the Mass he concelebrated at our cathedral on Pentecost Sunday. The nuncio made the closing remarks in rather decent Dutch, considering that he has only been here since December. I imagine it’s due to his being part of the Holy See’s diplomatic mission here before.
The Mass itself was the main closing event of the week which marked the 125th anniversary of the consecration of the cathedral church of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden. As such, the nuncio, concelebrated not only with our current bishop, Msgr. Gerard de Korte, who also gave the homily, but also with cathedral administrator, Father Rolf Wagenaar and Father Marius Kuipers, who works in the parish as emeritus priest.
In his homoiy, Bishop de Korte looked back on the events of the week, ads ahead to the future. He outlined some of his wishes for the church to be a learning and teaching community, where the faith is lived and communicated, not only in the liturgy (for which he explicitly noted Fr. Wagenaar’s contributions over the past thirteen years), but also in our service to the world beyond the cathedral walls.
After the Mass, the bishop and the cathedral administrator returned to the sanctuary to receive the first copies of the memorial book about the cathedral. Titled Van Volkskerk tot Kathedraal, de St.-Jozefkerk in Groningen (From people’s church to cathedral, the St. Joseph’s church in Groningen), the book looks chiefly at the building and everything in it. As Fr. Wagenaar writes in his foreword:
“Several studies have already appeared about this church, but never a true monograph, and this church does deserve one, because she provides such a complete program of what a Catholic church wants to be. A church is a meeting place [...] but a Catholic church means so much more. “Awe-inspiring is this place, abode of God, the gate of heaven,” the introit of the Holy Mass of dedication of a church says, taken from the book of Genesis 28:17.”
The book, the end product of two years of work by a team of historians, looks in detail at several aspects of the Gothic Revival church: history, construction, architecture, furnishings, symbolism, vestments and liturgical vessels, organs, clocks and the liturgical disposition. For me as a parishioner it offers a new look at things I’ve often looked at – providing a sense of history and context beyond the building and into the larger community of faithful that is the Church.
The cathedral has known its ups and downs, as the book makes clear. From the threat of closure and demolition in the early 80s, it is now the home of a faith community with members of all ages, with an adequate liturgy and catechesis, and a large team of volunteers. With the bishop, I sincerely hope that the future is one of growth and development and these and other aspects.
I received a letter yesterday, an invitation for the celebrations around the 125th anniversary, on 25 May, of the consecration of my parish church, the cathedral of Saints Joseph and Martin in Groningen . All ‘new Catholics’, people baptised or confirmed in the past ten years, received a similar invitation.
The parish website has the full schedule of events:
- Wednesday 23 May, 8pm: Father Antoine Bodar speaks about the question of the relevancy of the Church: Should we just abolish the Church or take pride in our being Catholic. This talk is specifically aimed at students and young Catholics.
- Friday 25 May, 2:30pm: Anniversary of the consecration of the church. For the elderly parishioners there will be a festive afternoon, and also the opening of a photo exhibit of the cathedral’s history. At 6:30pm the cathedral chapter will offer a Sung Vespers, and at 7pm there will be a High Mass during which Bishop Gerard de Korte will consecrate the new people’s altar.
- Saturday 26 May, 2pm: An afternoon for young families, during which Ms. Carolijn van Voorst tot Voorst will speak about religious education in our time. Children will be able to go on a treasure hunt in the church.
- Sunday 27 May, 11am: High Mass offered by Bishop de Korte and apostolic nuncio Archbishop André Dupuy. Mass will be followed by the official presentation of a memorial book of the church’s history. At 5pm there will be an ecumenical Vespers with the bishop and ministers of the various church communities in the city.
- Friday 1 June, 5 pm: Official reception for all the volunteers of the parish.
I’m especially looking forward to Fr. Bodar’s talk, the photo exhibit, the new altar, the High Mass on Sunday and the book.
A church, especially the church where one was baptised and confirmed and received the other sacraments, is not just a building. It is a home of sorts. The home of Christ, certainly, but therefore also a home for us. With the other parishioners and the clergy attached to the church we form a family. The cathedral in Groningen has been a home for me for more than five years now, which is nothing compared to the 125 years that it has been a home for others, but its celebration is also that of me and the parish I am a part of.
I came across a pretty nice-looking website that heralds the publication of an extensive biography of a forgotten Catholic great: Willem Marinus Cardinal van Rossum (1854-1932). Born a year after the Catholic hierarchy was re-established in the Netherlands, his career coincided with the period we now call the ‘rich Roman life’ (Rijke Roomsche Leven), when Catholics took full advantage of their newfound freedom to form all kinds of Catholic associations, unions and other clubs, to organise processions (if only below the great rivers) and take their devotions out of centuries of secrecy and hiding.
Cardinal van Rossum, then, was one that Dutch Catholics took pride in. His return to the Netherlands in 1924, as the papal legate to the Eucharistic Congress of Amsterdam, was basically the next best thing to the pope himself visiting. And his career was impressive in any case. In 1911, he was the first Dutch priest to be created a cardinal since the Reformation. He wasn’t a bishop then yet (something that is customary today, but less so in the past), but was appointed as President of the Pontifical Bible Commission in 1914, and two years later also as Major Penitentiary. In 1918 he also became Prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (the current Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples), and his consecration to bishop followed in that same year. There’s a fuller list of his various duties on the biography page on the website I linked to above.
The titular churches he held (first as Cardinal-deacon and later as Cardinal-priest) were suitably high profile. From 1911 to 1915 he held the S. Cesareo in Palatio, which was later held by Blessed Karol Wojtyła, for one. From 1915 until his death in 1932, the cardinal was cardinal-priest of S. Croce in Gerusalemme (right), which before him was held by two later popes (Innocent VII and Benedict XIV) and today by Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the emeritus archbishop of Prague.
As bishop he was the titular archbishop of Caesarea in Mauretania (there it is again), later held by to name but two, my own Bishop Gerard de Korte and Cardinal Walter Brandmüller.
Willem Cardinal van Rossum, because of his pioneering role for the rejuvenated Dutch Church, is deserving of a proper biography, and judging by the website above, this could be it.
Photo credit:  incaelo.wordpress.com,  Anthony Majanlahti/Wikipedia
Recently, it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI would be penning a children’s book called ‘The friends of Jesus’. In it, he is said to focus on the relationship of fourteen men with Jesus. Yes, men. The fourteen are the twelve original Apostles, St. Matthias who went to replace Judas in the twelve, and St. Paul who, while never part of the twelve, is generally considered an apostle all the same.
Following the release of this little news item certain people have gotten into a huff about the fact that the book only deals with men. “Surely, they say, women were also Jesus’ friends? So why are they not in the book? It must because the pope doesn’t like or is afraid of women.” That is a basic summation of their logic.
In the first point they are correct. There is enough Scriptural evidence that Jesus’ followers included both men and women, and some women indeed had a notable relation to Christ. The Blessed Virgin in the first place, of course, but also St. Mary Magdelene, and the other women who were present at the Crucifixion. But the pope doesn’t write about them. Why not?
The answer seems straightforward when one considers the aforementioned list of men. They are the Apostles. The Apostles are a very clearly identified group of men. Like it or not, the fact remains that there was not a woman among them.
“But women were also Jesus’ friends”, the masses clamour. Yes, and here we have the core of the problem. The term ‘friend’. It’s somewhat simplistic term to refer to the actual relationship that Jesus had with the Apostles. For a children’s book it’s use is understandable, of course, and we shouldn’t read to much into that, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Back to the problem of the term ‘friend’. There seems to be something of a consensus that Jesus and the Apostles were friends, mates, who met up for meals and conversation, maybe a party here and there, and nothing more. That idea limits the person of Christ to the strictly human; he becomes nothing but a good and nice man, who had some clever things to say. He was good, he had smart things to say, of course, but He was much more than that. Christ, after all, is God. And the Apostles knew that, although it took them a while. Christ is God, He brings salvation to all, and that fact must have coloured the relationship between Christ and the Apostles. They were much more than friends. He was their Lord and Saviour, and they in their turn were tasked with very specific and special duties in the Church He established.
Of course, He was also the Lord and Saviour of the women He knew, like He is to everyone who ever lived and will live. But the aforementioned tasks given to the Apostles made their relationship, the ‘friendship’ unique. Selecting them as the group to focus on a book is quite understandable. That is not a matter of ignoring the women in the life of Jesus and the women in the Church of today, but the complete opposite: the acknowledgement of the ‘friendship’ of Christ with His apostles.
In writing any book, an author must make choices. The pope could have taken a random selection of people to describe in his book, but he didn’t. He chose a specific group, the people who were closest to Christ in His active ministry here on earth. And as I said, calling them friends is correct but incomplete. It is, however, understandable for a children’s book which deals chiefly with getting to know Christ as someone near to us, as a friend. That can be the basis for further development of our relationship with Him. Seems like a fairly good place to start for children.
Politics and gender issues are misplaced and misguided in this and many other cases.
“The definitive text of the second volume of the book ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ by His Holiness Benedict XVI was recently consigned to the publishers entrusted with its publication. This second volume is dedicated to the Passion and the Resurrection, and starts where the first volume finished.
The German original was simultaneously consigned to Manuel Herder – the publisher editing the complete works (‘Gesammelte Schriften’) of Joseph Ratzinger – and to Fr. Giuseppe Costa, director of the Vatican Publishing House.
“The latter, as the main publisher, will be responsible for the concession of rights, the publication of the Italian edition, and the delivery of the text to other publishers for translation into the various languages, which will be undertaken directly from the German original.
“The hope is that the publication of the book in the major languages will come about contemporaneously. Yet this, however rapid, will still require various months, given the times necessary for an accurate translation of such an important and long-awaited text”.
Something to look forward to then.
The website of the diocese announces the publication of a new book by Father Johan te Velde, one of the three diocesan vicars. Fr. te Velde is diocesan delegate for the liturgy and his most recent book is titled Bidden naar het oosten, gebedsrichting in spiritualiteit en liturgie (Praying towards the East, direction of prayer in spirituality and liturgy).
An excerpt from the back cover:
“Gradually the meaning of the direction of prayer has been forgotten. In the early 1960s a large-scale change in the celebration of the Eucharist was introduced, in which the celebrant took up position behind the al;tar and spoke the prayer facing the people. Almost fifty years after the radical changes it is time to think anew about the spiritual, liturgical and theological meaning of the christian direction of prayer.”
In past publications, Father te Velde has shown himself to be an able liturgist, at least as far as the theory goes. Putting the theory into practice within the diocese as a whole has so far been lacking. Perhaps this book can contribute in some way.
The book can be ordered can be ordered directly from the publisher.
Another poem today. It is a reading by Neil Gaiman of his poem ‘Instructions’, accompanied by the rather wonderful illustrations by Charles Vess, which will be featured in an upcoming publications of the poem as a children’s book. I find Gaiman’s storytelling skills highly appealing; it is a mix between classic fairytale and modern fantasy, but always with an extra element of some other genre.