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In order to mark the 1150th anniversary of the arrival of Saints Cyril and Method in Great Moravia (encompassing the modern Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and parts of Germany, Poland, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Ukraine), Slovakia has decided to mint a special memorial 2 Euro coin depicting the two ‘Apostles to the Slavs’ in 2013. A lofty memorial of an event which lay at the basis of Slavic culture in central Europe and beyond.

Saints Cyril and Method came to bring the Christian faith to people who had not yet heard it. Their faith dictated who they were and what they did and said. To ignore that part of the persons is negligent and a falsification of history.

But that is precisely what the European Commission and several member states of the European Union (of which Slovakia is a member) now wants. The crosses on the saints’ clothing and the aureolas indicating their sainthood have been identified as possibly insulting or disturbing some citizens of the Union. By the grace of policy makers, only the double Byzantine cross, which also serves as Slovakia’s national symbol, was allowed to remain.

The Slovakian bishops’ conference has rightly stated that this is a lack of respect for Europe’s Christian traditions. A spokesperson wondered if Europe is a state of rights or a totalitarian system dictating which attributes are tolerated.

This is only one example in a series of Europe curtailing the display of identity and the free exercise of religion. The reasons given, that some unknown person may take offense at the symbols shown, are unreasonable in the extreme. I may say that a lack of Christian symbols offends me. Will the EU take that into account? Will they remove other symbols, statements, images, actions or whatever if they perhaps offend me? The banner of tolerance is used as a tool of intolerance.

This unreasonable fear of any display of religion, even in imagery that has a solid basis in history, is nothing but the complete denial of Europe’s own identity and history. Sts. Method and Cyril were Christians and we remember them for bringing the Christian faith to parts of Europe , so why on earth should we not remember them for who they were? Christian missionaries, not empty vessels to be filled with the identity that modern Europe dictates.

As part of the proceedings of the second session of the Synod of Bishops, yesterday, representatives of the five continents (although, for the sake of simplicity, the Americas were suddenly a single continent…) offered a report on the background of the new evangelisation in their respective parts of the world. Representing Europe was Péter Cardinal Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and President of the CCEE, the Council of European Episcopal Conferences.

Since this report relates to our own part of the world, it merits some special attention. First of all, I have it available in my Dutch translation here.

Cardinal Erdö divides his report in eleven bullet points. Points 1 to 3 discuss the need for evangelisation in the face of the loss of knowledge of the Christian faith and conscious efforts to distort and attack that faith. In points 4 and 5 discuss the effect that this has on the areas of human rights and politics, especially people’s attitude towards these, in Europe. Points 6 to 8, then, discuss signs of hope and opportunity. Points 9 to 11, finally, speak of the progress made in ecumenism. Combined, these points paint a picture of the reality in which the new evangelisation must somehow bear fruit.

While we may recognise much from what Cardinal Erdö says in what we see and read in the news, as a Catholic “on the ground” in Europe, I must admit that I don’t recognise everything in this report. Maybe that is due to the fact that the report discusses general trends in a large area, and the reality in the small area of a parish may be quite different. But, on the other hand, it is in that parish that the new evangelisation must take root.

Point two, about religious education, is as far as I am concerned spot on. With some experience in education, I can say that the standards of RE in secondary schools in the Netherlands are exceedingly low. Few are the schools which undertake any serious Catholic religious education, and for most students, it is indeed “an education in syncretism or indifference”.  If everything is equal, everything is equally ineffective and unimportant.

“The fact [...] that each Synodal assembly begins with prayer is no mere formality. Rather, it is evidence of our awareness that the initiative is always God’s. We may implore it, but the Church can only cooperate with God.”

United in prayer with 256 of the Synod fathers, Pope Benedict XVI launched the first working day of the Synod of Bishops this morning. In a seemingly unscripted address. the Holy Father spoke about the important fact of God’s reality and about charity being the visible form of the confession of our faith.

Today’s first Synodus Episcoporum Bulletin has a summary of the pope’s words, as well as full texts of the other main addresses: the greeting by President-Delegate Cardinal John Tong Hon; the report by the Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishop, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic; and the Relatio ante disceptationem by the Relator General, Cardinal Donald Wuerl (pictured).

In the afternoon, the fathers met once more for the second general congregation. Five prelates gave reports on the need for new evangelisation in their respective continents: Cardinal Péter Erdö for Europe, Cardinal Polycarp Pengo for Africa, Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes for the Americas, Cardinal Oswald Gracias for Asia and Archbishop John Atcherley Dew for Oceania. Cardinal Erdö’s words especially had a very serious undertone, which may be summarised in his first point: “Europe must be evangelized. It needs it.”

Following these reports, which outlined a background to the new evangelisation, why it is needed and how it is and will be implemented in the various parts of the world, three prelates presented further interventions. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Archbishop Salvador Piñeiro García-Calderón and Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko offered some extra points for discussion and reflection.

The texts of the Synod are steadily coming out, and as this blogger hasn’t got the time or space to discuss them all, I can only suggest you read (some of) them yourself. For today, I would say that Cardinal Wuerl’s words are most significant.

Via an official communique the press service of the Dutch bishops’ conference today published the name of the new Apostolic Nuncio to the Netherlands. He is the highly experienced Archbishop André Pierre Louis Dupuy.

Like his predecessor, Archbishop François Bacqué, whose resignation was accepted today, Archbishop Dupuy also hails from France. For the past six years, he represented the Holy See at various European Communities and since 2006 also in Monaco, where he was the first Nuncio. Msgr. Dupuy is almost 72 (reaching that age next February), so there is no change that he will match the long service of his predecessor. But that does not mean that he will be a footnote. As I mentioned above, the new Nuncio is highly experienced. As a priest, he worked in the diplomatic corps of the Holy See in Venezuela, Tanzania, the Netherlands (he’s no total stranger here then), Lebanon, Iran, Ireland en at the United Nations. In 1993, Msgr. Dupuy was consecrated to bishop and assigned as Apostolic Nuncio to Togo, Benin and Ghana. In 2000, he was sent to Venezuela, where he had repeated clashes with that country’s President Hugo Chavez. In 2005, then, he was assigned as the highest diplomatic representatives to a number of European Communities, with his offices in Uccle, Brussels. A year later, he became the same in Monaco. All in all, Archbishop Dupuy brings 37 years of diplomatic experience to The Hague’s Carnegielaan.

As bishop, Archbishop Dupuy holds the titular see of Selsey, located on England’s south coast. He is a doctor in history and canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Considered a confidant of Blessed John Paul II, Archbishop Dupuy wrote a book about the development of diplomacy under this pope, titled Giovanni Paolo II e le sfide della diplomazia pontificia, published in 2004.

As canon lawyer, historian and experienced diplomat, Archbishop Dupuy can do good work here with the bishops and the entire Church in this country. Closely tied to Rome and with an eye on the international community, he will be a good fit for the Dutch situation and hopefully bring fruitful solutions to some of the problems we are facing here.

The exact details of when Archbishop Dupuy will start his work here are as yet unknown. On Tuesday, retiring Nuncio Bacqué was received by Her Majesty the Queen and decorated as Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Orange-Nassau. Cardinals Simonis and Willebrands hold or have held the same rank in that order.

For now, a heartfelt welcome to the new Apostolic Nuncio. May his years here, while understandably short, bear much good fruit.

Photo credit:Council of the European Union [cropped]

Yesterday’s post on the assembly of archbishops under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation seems to lead to far more concrete steps than the piece in the Vatican Insider led us to believe.

Archbishop Fisichella himself explains as much in a piece in l’Osservatore Romano.

Benedict XVI, speaking to the first plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, said that it was of decisive importance to go beyond the fragmentation of society and offer concrete answers to the great challenges of today. To fill this need, a “metropolitan mission” has been put into action. The goal is simple: to give a sign of unity among the diverse dioceses present in the largest European cities that have been particularly affected by secularization.

At the moment, the initiative is limited to some of the larger European dioceses in order more concretely test its effectiveness. The project, however, should eventually extend beyond the borders of the old continent, albeit with modalities which respect the different cultural and ecclesial traditions.

Regarding concrete action, the following passages are most significant:

[T]he “metropolitan mission” intends to be a first step. It will be achieved through common and contemporaneous initiatives, in ordinary pastoral work with special attention to formation, and through public activities offered to the city during Lent 2012.

[...]

The cathedral will be the place of these activities. Firstly, through a continual reading of the Gospels, to place the Word of God at the center. Then, three catechisms of the bishop dedicated to young people, to families and to catechumens on the themes of faith; then, a celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation to draw attention to confession and for its high anthropological value. An activity of charity will complete the experience to demonstrate that faith that is professed and prayed is also witnessed. Finally, a sign of spirituality of a cultural character will be given by the reading of various significant texts, such as excerpts from the Confessions of St. Augustine.

As I concluded in yesterday’s post, this will be an ideal opportunity to learn from the past experiences of individual dioceses. Msgr. Fisichella concludes his article editorial as follows:

Thanks to this initiative, the dioceses work together on a common project, strengthened by their individual experiences of the past, they sustain each other in the common difficulties they encounter. They look to the future with the hope of unity and with the intention of recuperating a sense of involvement and responsibility, favoring the creative and credible contribution of Christians.

Read the full text via the link provided above.

It’s been three days, but last weekend’s papal visit to Spain deserves to mentioned here. I’ll do that through the – by now – standard ‘papal soundbytes’; quotes taken from the texts available here. These quotes are nothing but highlights, and my personal choice at that. But I do believe that they reflect essential and important issues raised by Pope Benedict XVI. For the full context, do read the complete texts at the link above.

Pope Benedict speak with Crown Prince Felipe upon his arrival at Lavacolla airport in Santiago de Compostela

Welcoming ceremony, Santiago de Compostela:

“Like the Servant of God John Paul II, who from Compostela exhorted the old Continent to give a new impulse to its Christian roots, I too wish to encourage Spain and Europe to build their present and to project their future on the basis of the authentic truth about man, on the basis of the freedom which respects this truth and never harms it, and on the basis of justice for all, beginning with the poorest and the most defenceless. A Spain and a Europe concerned not only with people’s material needs but also with their moral and social, spiritual and religious needs, since all these are genuine requirements of our common humanity and only in this way can work be done effectively, integrally and fruitfully for man’s good.”

Visit to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

The pope with Santiago's archbishop Julián Barrio Barrio

“To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendour and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe.”

“Truth and freedom are closely and necessarily related. Honestly seeking and aspiring to truth is the condition of authentic freedom. One cannot live without the other. The Church, which desires to serve unreservedly the human person and his dignity, stands at the service of both truth and freedom. She cannot renounce either, because what is at stake is man himself, because she is moved by love for man, “the only creature on earth which God has wanted for its own sake” (Gaudium et Spes, 24), and because without this aspiration for truth, justice and freedom, man would lose his very self.”

Homily at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

The pope in prayer during Mass

“I would like this message to reach all young people: this core content of the Gospel shows you in particular the path by which, in renouncing a selfish and short-sighted way of thinking so common today, and taking on instead Jesus’ own way of thinking, you may attain fulfilment and become a seed of hope.”

“From this place, as a messenger of the Gospel sealed by the blood of Peter and James, I raise my eyes to the Europe that came in pilgrimage to Compostela. What are its great needs, fears and hopes? What is the specific and fundamental contribution of the Church to that Europe which for half a century has been moving towards new forms and projects? Her contribution is centred on a simple and decisive reality: God exists and he has given us life. He alone is absolute, faithful and unfailing love, that infinite goal that is glimpsed behind the good, the true and the beautiful things of this world, admirable indeed, but insufficient for the human heart. Saint Teresa of Jesus understood this when she wrote: “God alone suffices”.”

“We cannot live in darkness, without seeing the light of the sun. How is it then that God, who is the light of every mind, the power of every will and the magnet of every heart, be denied the right to propose the light that dissipates all darkness? This is why we need to hear God once again under the skies of Europe; may this holy word not be spoken in vain, and may it not be put at the service of purposes other than its own. It needs to be spoken in a holy way. And we must hear it in this way in ordinary life, in the silence of work, in brotherly love and in the difficulties that years bring on.”

Homily at the dedication Mass of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

The imposing interior of the Sagrada Familia during the Mass of consecration of the basilica.

“What do we do when we dedicate this church? In the heart of the world, placed before God and mankind, with a humble and joyful act of faith, we raise up this massive material structure, fruit of nature and an immense achievement of human intelligence which gave birth to this work of art. It stands as a visible sign of the invisible God, to whose glory these spires rise like arrows pointing towards absolute light and to the One who is Light, Height and Beauty itself.”

“The Church of herself is nothing; she is called to be the sign and instrument of Christ, in pure docility to his authority and in total service to his mandate. The one Christ is the foundation of the one Church. He is the rock on which our faith is built.”

“In this masterpiece, Gaudí shows us that God is the true measure of man; that the secret of authentic originality consists, as he himself said, in returning to one’s origin which is God.”

The pope anoints the altar of the Sagrada Familia with holy oil, consecrating it for its use as the table on which Christ's sacrifice on the corss will be made present once again.

“The architect expressed his sentiments in the following words: “A church [is] the only thing worthy of representing the soul of a people, for religion is the most elevated reality in man”.”

“Life has changed greatly and with it enormous progress has been made in the technical, social and cultural spheres. We cannot simply remain content with these advances. Alongside them, there also need to be moral advances, such as in care, protection and assistance to families, inasmuch as the generous and indissoluble love of a man and a woman is the effective context and foundation of human life in its gestation, birth, growth and natural end. Only where love and faithfulness are present can true freedom come to birth and endure. For this reason the Church advocates adequate economic and social means so that women may find in the home and at work their full development, that men and women who contract marriage and form a family receive decisive support from the state, that life of children may be defended as sacred and inviolable from the moment of their conception, that the reality of birth be given due respect and receive juridical, social and legislative support. For this reason the Church resists every form of denial of human life and gives its support to everything that would promote the natural order in the sphere of the institution of the family.”

Address at the Obra Benéfico-Social Nen Déu

“The dedication of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia this morning has highlighted that churches are the sign of the true sanctuary of God among men. Here, I would like to emphasize how, through the efforts of this and similar church institutions, [...], it is clear that, for the Christian, every man and woman is a true sanctuary of God, and should be treated with the highest respect and affection, above all when they are in need. In this way, the Church desires to put into practice the words of the Lord in the Gospel, “I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).”

The silhouettes of Pope Benedict XVI and Msgr. Guido Marini, as the leave the Sagrada Familia

Photo credit:
1: AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano
2: Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images
3, 4, 6: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
5: Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

About this blog

I am a Dutch Catholic from the north of the Netherlands. In this blog I wish to provide accurate information on current affairs in the Church and the relation with society. It is important for Catholics to have knowledge about their own faith and Church, especially since these are frequently misrepresented in many places. My blog has two directions, although I use only English in my writings: on the one hand, I want to inform Dutch faithful - hence the presence of a page with Dutch translations of texts which I consider interesting or important -, and on the other hand, I want to inform the wider world of what is going on in the Church in the Netherlands.

It is sometimes tempting to be too negative about such topics. I don't want to do that: my approach is an inherently positive one, and loyal to the Magisterium of the Church. In many quarters this is an unfamiliar idea: criticism is often the standard approach to the Church, her bishops and priests and other representatives. I will be critical when that is warranted, but it is not my standard approach.

For a personal account about my reasons for becoming and remaining Catholic, go read my story: Why am I Catholic?

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The above means that I have the right to be recognised as the author of both the original blog posts, as well as any translations I make. Everyone is free to share my content, but with credit in the form of my name or a link to my blog.

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Over the years, my blog posts have been picked up by various other blogs, websites and media outlets.

A complete list would be prohibitively long, so I'll limit myself to mentioning The Anchoress, Anton de Wit, Bisdom Haarlem-Amsterdam, The Break/SQPN, Caritas in Veritate, Catholic Culture, The Catholic Herald, EWTN, Fr. Ray Blake's Blog, Fr. Z's Blog, The Hermeneutic of Continuity, Katholiek Gezin, Katholiek.nl, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, New Liturgical Movement, NOS, Protect the Pope, Reformatorisch Dagblad, The Remnant, RKS Ariëns, Rorate Caeli, The Spectator, Vatican Insider, Voorhof and Whispers in the Loggia.

All links to, quotations of and use as source material of my blog posts is greatly appreciated. It's what I blog for: to further awareness and knowledge in a positive critical spirit. Credits are equally liked, of course.

Blog posts have also been used as sources for various Wikipedia articles, among them those on Archbishop Pierre-Marie Carré, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Archbishop Sergio Utleg and Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki.

Latest translations added:

4 April: [English] Pope Francis - Interview with Belgian youth.

25 February: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Brief aan de Gezinnen.

24 February: [Dutch] Raymond Kardinaal Burke - De radicale oproep van de paus tot de nieuwe evangelisatie.
De focus van Paus Franciscus op liefde en praktische pastorale zorg in de grotere context van de Schrift en de leer van de Kerk.

21 February: [Dutch] Aartsbisschop Angelo Becciu - Brief aan de Nederlandse studenten.
Namens paus Franciscus reageert de Substituut van het Staatsecretariaat op pausgroet.tk.

20 February: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Welkomstwoord op het Consistorie.
De paus begroet de kardinalen voor het 11e Buitengewone Consistorie, en vat de doelstellingen kort samen.

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Sancta Maria, hortus conclusus, ora pro nobis!

Sancte Ramon de Peñafort, ora pro nobis!

Pope Francis

Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province of Rome, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the Servants of God

Bishop Gerard de Korte

Bishop of Groningen-Leeuwarden

Willem Cardinal Eijk

Cardinal-Priest of San Callisto, Metropolitan Archbishop of Utrecht

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