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These days this blog certainly gives the impression of being preoccupied with death. But, then again, death is part of life, and when it encroaches we can benefit by acknowledging it. So, with that, in mind, onwards to another post about a death in the local Catholic family.
Last night a life ended that was greatly animated by concern for others, both abroad and at home. Also a life that was not without its critics, who accused it of being perhaps too generally spiritual as opposed to Catholic, and on some topics far too liberal. But that criticism did not leave its mark. Silence, care and simply doing what needed doing did.
Bishop Martinus Petrus Maria Muskens passed away last night at the age of 77. The final years of his life were marked by ever decreasing health and mobility, although he was able to attend several major celebrations within the Diocese of Breda, including the 50th anniversary of his own ordination to the priesthood. Bishop Muskens is survived by his own predecessor, Bishop Huub Ernst, and two of his predecessors, Bishop Hans van den Hende and Jan Liesen, as bishops of Breda.
Bishop Muskens, whose first name was usually shortened to ‘Tiny’, started his life in the Church as a priest of the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch in 1962. His study of missiology at Nijmegen led him to Indonesia, where he worked for eight years as director of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference’s documentation centre. In 1978, Father Muskens went to Rome, to become rector of the Dutch College and teach Church history at two international colleges. One of his most noted efforts there was the restoration of the Church of Saints Michael and Magnus, better known as the Church of the Frisians. Today this church is the home base for Dutch pilgrims and officials in Rome. In 1994, Pope John Paul II appointed him as the ninth bishop of Breda. Bishop Muskens was consecrated by his predecessor, Bishop Huub Ernst, which marked his first permanent return to the Netherlands since he left for Indonesia. Marking his international and interfaith outlook that would come to the fore in later years, Bishop Muskens chose the simple word “Shalom”, Peace, as his motto.
Following two minor strokes in 2001, Bishop Muskens decided to request a coadjutor and an early retirement. These were both granted in 2006, in the form of Bishop Hans van den Hende, and in 2007, when Bishop Muskens joined the Benedictine community in Teteringen, where he was simply known as “Brother Martinus”. Shortly afterwards, a chance collision with a cyclist led to him breaking his hip. He never walked again without the aid of a cane, and at major celebrations he was usually present in choir or in a pew at the front of the church.
In his years as bishop of Breda, Msgr. Muskens was perhaps the most visible bishop in the media. Several of his statements and convictions caused ripples in society and also within the Church. He was, for example, in favour of abolishing mandatory celibacy for priests, and suggested the use of condoms as a lesser evil. He was also in favour of female deacons. On the other hand, other acts and statements made him quite popular in society. He said that a homeless person should be allowed to steal a bread if that meant survival, and at another occasion he slept in a doorway to underline the plight of homeless people. This social engagement gave him the nickname I used in this blog post’s title: the Red Bishop.
His experience in dealing with Islam was also visible in his work as bishop. He suggested that the Dutch national holiday of the second day of Pentecost be traded for a holiday to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid, since the former lacks any theological basis. He also suggested we address God also with the name Allah. On the other hand, he was also critical of Islam. The dialogue between Christians and Muslims has no future, he said in 2007, as long as countries in the Middle East continue to forbid the construction of churches.
Like him or not, there is no denying that Bishop Tiny Muskens was a character, and he knew it. He knew the importance of sometimes shaking up set morals and convictions. As such, he leaves some big shoes to fill, but I’ll go as far as to say that we could use someone to fill them.
Journalist Arjan Broers, who wrote three books with and about the bishop, characterises Bishop Muskens in the epilogue to one of those books:
“In this book, you won’t read how all sorts of people feel at ease with Muskens, because they don t need to pretend with him. You will neither read how people often felt visibly uncomfortable with him. Not out of awe for His Excellency, but because he is so hard to fathom.
You will not read how Muskens can pester people [...]. You won’t read how he can act like a tank, by walking into a Church institution in Rome, bishop’s cross on his chest like an imposing identification, and keep on walking and asking until he gets what he wants. And you’ll neither read how, at other times, he accepts how things are without a fight.”
A tank, a man with a mission he simply had to see through, Bishop Muskens got away with it and did what he understood as the right thing. And he simply did it, without much words, as he was perfectly at ease with silence. Silence just because it’s silent.
The Requiem Mass and funeral will take place on 23 April in the Cathedral of St. Anthony in Breda. Bishop Muskens will be laid to rest in the family grave in his native Elshout.
Photo credit: R. Mangold
There is beauty in dying: if we have to die, it is best, we feel, to do so at home, in the place where we belonged in life. For Bishop Reinhard Lettmann this became true early this afternoon. After celebrating Mass around noon, he passed away, aged 80, in Bethlehem, in the country which had become his second home.
Similarly providential, it seems, the 150 or so deacons and priests who were gathered in Münster fr a day of meeting and study broke up their assembly and offered Vespers for the deceased emeritus bishop.
Bishop Lettmann was bishop of the Diocese of Münster from 1980 to 2008.
A priest since 1959, the native Münsterian held a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University and worked as a stenographer on the official documentation of the Second Vatican Council. In 1973, Msgr. Lettmann, who was administrator of the cathedral of St. Paul at the time, was appointed as auxiliary bishop under Bishop Heinrich Tenhumberg, with the titular diocese of Rotaria. Christo tuo venienti occurrentes became his episcopal motto: “Rushing forward to meet Christ coming”.
In 1980, Bishop Lettmann succeeded Bishop Tenhumberg, who had passed away a few months earlier. Within the German Bishops’ Conference, he was a member of Commission on Ecumenism, and he was also a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. I addition to these and his pastoral duties, he was also a prolific author on various topics.
The obituary on the website of the Diocese of Münster characterises Bishop Lettmann as a “builder of bridges, one the one hand between people, on the other between people and God. He was open towards people, showing tolerance and patience. … He was always confident in dealing with complicated procedures, he loved conversations and encounters with people, but he also always drew strength from voluntary solitude, from silence and prayer.”
Photo credit: Michael Bönte
Today the German Diocese of Görlitz bade farewell to its first bishop, Rudolf Müller, who had passed away on Christmas Day at the age of 81. A priest since 1955. Bishop Müller was appointed to head the Apostolic Administration of Görlitz in 1987. He became the first ordinary when Görlitz became a diocese in 1994. In 2006 he retired.
The Requiem Mass at the cathedral of St. James was offered by Rainer Cardinal Woelki, archbishop of Berlin, together with Görlitz’s current ordinary, Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt. Bishop Leopold Nowak, emeritus of Magdeburg, gave the homily, while the Apostolic Nuncio to Germany, Archbishop Jean-Claude Périsset, Bishop Norbert Trelle of Hildesheim, representing the German Bishops’ Conference, and Bishop Stefan Cichy of Legnica, Poland, also attended.
Bishop Müller’s death was sudden, despite his advanced age. Bishop Cichy said of the deceased: “Bishop Rudolf remains in my memory as a joyful man who liked to sing, a good neighbour and a true friend.”
Photo credit: www.bistum-goerlitz.de/
Four months after the appointment of his successor, Bishop Michel Hrynchyshyn passed away at the age of 83 last Monday. As Apostolic Exarch of France he was the shepherd for Catholics belonging to the Ukrainian rite in France, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands for almost 30 years, until his retirement in July of this year.
Born in Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1929, Hrynchyshyn joined the Redemptorists in 1945. In Canada, he worked for the order as seminary rector, professor and church administrator. In the 1960s he was the rector of the church of St. John the Baptist in Newark, New Jersey. After 1972 he was the provincial superior for the Ukrainian Redemptorists in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. In 1982, he was sent to France to be come the second Apostolic Exarch of the aforementioned countries. From 1987 to 1989, Bishop Hrynchyshyn was also Apostolic Administrator for the Apostolic Exarchate of Great Britain. He held the titular diocese of Zygris, located in modern Egypt.
Bishop Hrynchyshyn served as an advisor to the Congregation for Oriental Churches.
The Transalpine Redemptorists also mark his passing.
Going by the date of creation, Eugênio de Araújo Sales was the most senior cardinal in the College until his death last night. At the age of 91 the former archbishop of Rio de Janeiro came to the end of a life marked by service to the Church in his native Brazil, and the numbers of that life are certainly impressive. A priest for more than 68 years, a bishop for almost 58, and a cardinal for a little over 43 years…
Eugênio de Araújo Sales was born into a wealthy family in the northeastern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte. His father was a judge, and young Eugênio was able to receive a good education. At 15, he entered the minor seminary in Natal, the state capital, and a year later he moved to the major seminary in Fortaleza. Completing his studies in 1943, he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Natal, which had been created only 34 years earlier. He devoted his time to pastoral work, but somehow came to the attention of the higher powers in the diocese that in 1952 had become an archdiocese. In 1954, Pope Pius XII appointed him as auxiliary bishop of Natal, with the titular see of Thibica (a see today held, incidentally, by the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer).
In 1962, although Archbishop Marcolino de Souza Dantas did not retire as archbishop of Natal, Bishop de Araújo Sales was appointed as apostolic administrator sede plena, indicating that the archbishop was, in some way, incapacitated or unable to run the archdiocese. Two years later, on 9 July 1964, Bishop de Araújo Sales was transferred to the Archdiocese of São Salvador de Bahia, one of Brazil’s oldest and most prestigious sees, once more as Apostolic Administrator sede plena. In that same period, he attended all sessions of the Second Vatican Council. In October of 1968 his appointment as archbishop of São Salvador de Bahia followed. Befitting his new function, Archbishop de Araújo Sales was created a cardinal in the following April, at the same consistory were Dutch Cardinal Johannes Willebrands was created. His cardinal title was San Gregorio XII. He was the first cardinal protector of that church.
The cardinal’s time in São Salvador de Bahia turned out to be fairly short, as he was moved southward in April of 1971, to the Archdiocese of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro. And that is where he would stay until his retirement in 2001. He was also the bishop for the faithful of the Eastern Rites in Brazil. Recently, evidence began to surface that, in Rio, Cardinal de Araújo Sales was strongly opposed to the human right violations committed under the military regime of the time. Later, he also became a steadfast voice for the protection of Catholic morals in daily life in the city and all of Brazil.
Aside from his normal work as shepherd of the faithful in Rio, Cardinal de Araújo Sales participated in several major international conferences and assemblies in the Americas and in Rome. He participated in the conclaves that elected Popes John Paul I and Blessed John Paul II, and represented the latter at several major celebrations in Brazil and Portugal. Followed the death of the Blessed Pope, Cardinal de Araújo Sales was one of the nine prelates offering a funeral Mass for the deceased pontiff.
Cardinal de Araújo Sales continued with pastoral activities well after his retirement. At the age of 90 he still regularly offered Mass in a parish church in Ipanema and maintained an office next door to it. He also contributed a weekly column on faith and morality to a local newspaper until the current archbishop of Rio, Orani João Tempesta, took over from him (upon the cardinal’s own suggestion) in April of 2011.
With the death of the cardinal, the College of Cardinals now numbers 208, 121 of whom are electors.
Less then three months after his 80th birthday and his departure from the ranks of the cardinal electors, Rodolfo Cardinal Quezada Toruño passed away this morning in a private hospital in Guatemala City.
On the occasion of his 80th birthday, I already write about the late cardinal here. I’ll share here the short overview of his life and career in the Church that I wrote at the time:
Born in Guatemala City in 1932, Rodolfo Quezada Toruño was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Guatemala in 1956, with a Licentiate in Theology from the University of Innsbruck in Austria and a Doctorate in Canon Law from Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University in his pocket. He held several teaching positions and was the first rector of Guatemala’s National Major Seminary of the Assumption.
In 1972, aged 40, Fr. Quezada Toruño was appointed as auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Zacapa. In 1975, he was appointed as Coadjutor Bishop of that same diocese. In 1980 he succeeded Bishop Costantino Luna Pianegonda. From 1988 to 1992, and again from 2002 to 2006, he was president of Guatemala’s Bishops’ Conference.
In the 1990′s Bishop Quezada Toruño became a national hero as he led two organisations that played an important role in brokering a peace agreement that ended 36 years of civil war. His assistant in this work, Bishop Juan Gerardi, auxiliary bishop of Guatemala, was viciously beaten to death in 1998.
21 years after his consecration, in the summer of 2001, Bishop Quezada Toruño became the 36th Archbishop of Guatemala, his home diocese. He was created a cardinal in the conclave of 21 October 2003, the last one called by Blessed Pope John Paul II. Cardinal Quezada Toruño is the first cardinal-priest of San Saturnino. On 2 October 2010 he retired as Guatemala’s archbishop.
Cardinal Quezada Toruño was a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
The college of cardinals now numbers 209, with 121 of them electors.
At the tail end of it, the month became quite interesting, as my translation of the pope’s letter to the German bishops was picked by numerous blogs and websites, resulting in more than 2,000 page views in one day. Not surprisingly, the blog easily broke the 10,000 page view ceiling and peaked at 10,992. I know this blogging game is not about numbers, but still: wow.
Without further ado, here’s the top 10 of last month:
1: Letter to the German Bishops’ Conference 3,120
2: Priest in space 129
3: Cardinal Watch: Cardinal Daoud passes away 84
4: Cardinal Watch: Cardinal Aponte Martínez passes away 82
5: Seventh Station: Jesus falls for the second time 80
6: For all or many – Pope Benedict enters the debate 68
7: The Stations of the Cross 66
8: Happy birthday, Holy Father! 64
9: A blackbook for Bishop Mutsaerts 57
10: “A desperate push” – Holy Father corrects disobedient priests 54
Although the numbers above are obviously a sign of appreciation that is very welcome and, er, appreciated, there are other ways to show support for this blog. One of them is via the donation button below.
The only cardinal that the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico has ever known, Luis Aponte Martínez, passed away yesterday at the age of 89.
Born in a large family in 1922 in the town of Lajas, Luis Aponte Martínez showed a deep religious devotion from an early age. This no doubt contributed to his vocation to the priesthood. He studied at Puerto Rico’s San Juan seminary and at the Seminary of Saint John in Boston. In 1950, he was ordained to the priesthood.
Father Aponte Martínez served as secretary to the curia of the Diocese of Ponce and as parish priest in that same diocese. In 1960, he became the first native Puerto Rican bishop, as he was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Ponce and titular bishop of Lares. Three years later, Bishop Aponte Martínez became coadjutor bishop of Ponce, and succeeded Bishop James McManus in November of 1963.
Bishop Aponte Martínez would not stay in Ponce for very long. Less than a year later he was appointed as Archbishop of San Juan, a position he would hold for no less than 35 years, retiring in 1999.
Archbishop Aponte Martínez was created a cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1973 with the tile of Santa Maria Madre della Provvidenza a Monte Verde. He was one of the longest-surviving cardinals created by Paul VI and participating in both conclaves of 1978. The only others who can claim the same are Cardinals Paolo Arns, William Baum, Eugênio Sales and Pope Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Aponte Martínez played an important pastoral role on the entire island of Puerto Rico, often speaking out strongly on all sorts of moral issues, and criticising government programs of birth control and sterilisation. One of his most notable denouncements was that of the homosexual lifestyle of pop singer Ricky Martin.
The body of the cardinal is taken to the various churches that played an important part in his life, before his burial at the cathedral in San Juan on Monday.
The College of Cardinals in now 210 strong.