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A short personal note from Bishop Antoon Hurkmans of the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch, in which he encourages us to seek “open encounters” with people, especially those outside the Church.
In a few days Holy Week begins. A “holy time” during which I am happy to meet you through this short letter. I wish you a week full of bountiful mercy and a Blessed Easter.
Allow me to accompany my Easter wishes with a thought.
Personally, my experience is that open encounters are live-giving. You, as priest, deacon, pastoral worker, pastoral assistant, as faithful, as man and woman, are called to encounter one another. Pope Francis ask to find opportunities to encounter people ‘on the periphery’ in Church and society. Our work is often about many official meetings and about organisation. That is hard. For that reason it would be good for us to regularly seek an open encounter with someone. To give concrete expression to our being faithful.
An open encounter
Simplicity, humility, openness. These are important requirements for an open encounter. Give the other first place. To be there for the other. To listen to the other. To very much leave the other free. This places a major demand to the person seeking such an encounter. To not immediately come to the other with a message or with plans. Meet the other from the starting point of prayer. It gives depth. Remain in God. Remain in love. So prepared, go to the other and the rest will follow. The man or woman across from you will often be the first to speak about disappointment, about pain pressing on the heart. He or she will speak about “the others” who make so many mistakes. Sometimes that is all. But you can often hear the hope that lives in the heart. When you can listen deeply, you also hear the desire for repairing broken threads of life.
People who experience that they can be at home with us, will feel that there is room for their life history. When they in turn – who knows when – meet us in Church, they will be able to open up to God who waits for them. They can then experience that they can be a child of God. That God is a merciful Father. That Jesus gives His life on the Cross out of love for all people. To repair the broken threads of life. That the Holy Spirit has lived in them since their Baptism and Confirmation. That Jesus strengthens them at the altar. They will, when the time is there, begin to surmise that God is indeed as great that He made His Son rise from the dead. Step by step, they will open up to the Resurrection and to life after death.
In our time it is more than ever necessary that we present the faith to our fellow men and women with simplicity, humility, along the road of open encounters. By living it ourselves and making witness of it.
I sincerely wish for you to be able to give priority, amid all the work, to open encounters. It will do you good.
I warmly wish you all a Blessed Easter.”
Marking Easter – which is more than just one day – I want to share some of the messages that our bishops have given for the Feast of the Resurrection. First is the archbishop of Berlin, Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki, who speaks about how the hope of Easter opens us up to Christ, every day anew, so that we can help others to also meet Christ.
“”He is not here, for he has risen, as he said he would” (Matt. 28:6). The angels’ Easter message is not only directed to the women at the empty tomb, but also directly to us. Full of joy we join in with the Alleluiah of Easter. At the same time, many people have difficulties believing in the Resurrection, which makes me think.
Easter brought something new into the world: a hope which tells us, over the power of death: “For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Joh. 3:16). Easter is the answer of the Christian faith to the provocation of death.We are called to life in unity with the living Lord, we are called to eternal life. In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis reminded us of this: “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (EG 7)*. It is the encounter with Jesus Christ as the risen and the living. Scripture tells us of these encounters of people with the Risen: Jesus Christ is risen, He lives!
Only the Light “from Heaven” brightens our own life. Only the gaze “upwards” to Him opens up for us the meaning of all that Jesus Christ has done and said. His death on the cross seems to put into question his message and works. But through the Resurrection God the Father confirms the message and the work of His Son. The Resurrection, not death, is the final chapter of His and our life story.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe!” (Joh. 20:29). This is verse from the Bible puts it succinctly: Whoever is open to the Easter message, in him it changes something. The Kingdom of God is near, and the promise is already active today. In the night before Easter this becomes visible when the Churches festively receives the catechumens. Through Baptism they arise into new life in Jesus Christ. The same is true for all of us, who are baptised and confirmed in His name. In Jesus we arise every new day to new life. And when we suffer some setback in our life, the hope of Easter give us the power to stand up anew every day.
In this way our own life becomes an answer to the questions of those who struggle with the message of Easter: Every Sunday, every day he can encounter the Risen One himself! In the Eucharist we meet the Risen One like the disciples met Him on the road to Emmaus. Similarly, we meet Him in prayer, where He listens to us and our concerns. And we meet Him in our neighbour, and vice versa: “It is no longer I, but Christ living in me” (Gal. 2:20). As easter people we are the “Light of the world”, the “Salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13-14), and we become signs of His salvation.
I wish you a happy and blessed Easter, Alleluiah!”
* Pope Francis quotes Pope emeritus Benedict XVI here
“To have faith means: to make GOD great, to let HIM be great. I see this as the first and most important task for us Christians in our country’s present and its future. That is the most important service which we, as Church, have to offer the people.
Dear fathers, dear mothers, let God be great amid your family, so that your children can grow up in the security of His love.
Dear priests and religious, who have come in such great numbers, who give a witness of the Gospel by your way of life: strengthen the people in the faith and be bridge builders with me for God’s presence in our entire world.
Dear sisters and brothers, who do your work as craftsmen, industrial labourers, farmers, civil servants, politicians, entrepeneurs or whatever: let God be great in your daily work, to the glory of God and the good of the people.
Through your Baptism and Confirmation you all share in the life of Christ and in His mission as teacher, shepherd and priest. He has called and enabled us all to witness of Him; and especially where the Lord has placed us: in our jobs, our families, in business, in public life and indeed also in the office of bishop: various services, one mission, to make sure that God is made great. In this shared concern we are all Church!
As your new bishop, I am willing to lead in prayer and as first evangeliser. But I need you, I need you all. It is not possible with you.”
A passage from the closing remarks of Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer at the end of the Mass in which he was consecrated and installed as the 78th bishop of Regensburg, yesterday. Doing the honours as consecrating bishop was Munich’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx, with Archbishop Gerhard Müller (emeritus of Regensburg) and Bishop František Radkovsky (ordinary of the neighbouring Czech Diocese of Plzeň) serving as co-consecrators.
More than 4,000 faithful, among them 400 priests, were present in the cathedral of St. Peter, as well as the basilica of the Nativity of Our Lady to the Ancient Chapel and the church of St. Johann, where a live broadcast of the three-hour Mass was shown. It was also shown live on Bavarian television.
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.
Over the past week, there has been something of a changing of the guard in southern Germany, or at least the start of one. As the country’s youngest bishop was consecrated on 27 July, two senior prelates retired on the 30th and the 31st.
Bishop Florian Wörner was consecrated in Augsburg by Bishop Konrad Zdarsa (Wörner pictured at left at the closing of the consecration Mass). He is now one of Augsburg’s two auxiliary bishops. In his homily, Bishop Zdarsa addressed the new bishop:
As a direct representative of the bishop you will have the special responsibility to ensure the promotion of the new evangelization in our diocese. The Lord also calls you, like the prophet: Fear not!
God’s word is not only placed in your mouth and heart, but you are similar to the Incarnate Word in Baptism and Confirmation, and in conformity to your ordination as a bishop, you will act and speak in persona Christi.
You are chosen from the people for the people, not to rule for your personal honor, but to serve. Yes, perhaps not even to have appeal and success, but rather to lose them.
However it may be - if this you may be certain: you are chosen by God to help people to get to know God and be saved by the foolishness of preaching the word of the cross.”
Elsewhere in Germany’s south, two veteran auxiliary bishops retired. In Freiburg im Breisgau Bishop Paul Friedrich Wehrle did so after 31 years, and in München und Freising Bishop Engelbert Siebler finished 26 years as auxiliary bishop.
72-year-old Bishop Wehrle retires for health reasons. The archdiocese will be requesting a successor, as it tries to maintain three active auxiliaries in lieu of the dioceses size. Auxiliary Bishop Rainer Klug and Bernd Uhl remain to assist Archbishop Robert Zollitsch. Both Zollitsch and Klug are 73, so this retirement heralds an almost complete change in diocesan leadership over the coming years.
Bishop Engelbert Siebler retires for reasons of age, having turned 75 in May. He has been active as a teacher, leading the Commission on Schooling and Formation in the bishops’ conference from 2001 to 2006. Upon his retirement, Bishop Siebler receives both the Federal and Bavarian Order of Merit.
It may not be a big international journey (although, from Vatican City, almost any journey is an international one), the weekend trip that Pope Benedict XVI is taking to Milan is certainly one with an international flavour. Billed as a twofold pastoral visit, to the Archdiocese of Milan and the Seventh World Meeting of Families, it includes no less than thirteen events which the pope will speak at or attend.
First up today are the official welcome at the airport, a meeting with the people of Milan in front of the iconic Duomo and a concert at the La Scala theatre.
Tomorrow will be mainly pastoral, as the Holy Father will mark several moments of prayer, as well as meeting with Confirmation candidates and attending an ‘evening of witness’.
Sunday, then, will be relatively low-key, fitting for both the Lord’s day and the papal stamina. Pope Benedict will celebrate a big public Mass in Bresso Park, and he will speak to the organisers of the World Day of Families.
Family will no doubt be a major topic in the papal addresses, from which I will share choice passages here as they appear.
A return to the Vatican is expected for early Sunday evening.
The Archdiocese of Milan, dating back to the first century, is one of Europe’s largest dioceses. Home to almost 5 million Catholics, boasting 30 basilicas, it has nevertheless been visited by a pope only twice before. Blessed John Paul II visited in 1983 and 1984. The archbishop if Angelo Cardinal Scola, and he has four auxiliary bishops to assist him. It has given the Church three popes (Paul VI, Pius XI and Urban III) and one antipope (Alexander V).
Photo credit: AP Photo/Luca Bruno
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.