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general congregationThere seems to be a general trend in the media to wonder what on Earth is keeping the five “absentee electors”. Cardinals Lehmann, Pham Minh Man, Nycz, Tong Hon and Naguib have missed the first three general congregations, although they are expected to arrive in Rome today or tomorrow. is it because they do not consider their duties in Rome very important, or because of travel distance, or something else altogether?

While we obviously can’t say anything about what any cardinal considers important, it is a safe bet to say that the entire College of Cardinals is well aware of their duties these days. Travel distance is also no longer a good excuse, not even for Cardinals Pham Minh Man and Tong Hon, who have to come from Ho Chi Minh City and Hong Kong respectively.

That leaves “something else” as a possible explanation. The five cardinals mentioned above all have on thing in common: they are ordinaries of a diocese, which is where their first responsibilities lie. So the explanation can be as simple as that: other duties kept the cardinals in Mainz, Ho Chi Minh City, Warsaw, Hong Kong and Alexandria a while longer. Is that a slight towards the other cardinals already gathered in Rome, or an attempt to influence the start date of the conclave? That is a standpoint that is far too cynical for my taste.

And in the case of Cardinal Naguib there is the added fact that his health is not as good as it once was. His recent retirement as Patriarch of the Coptic Catholics of Egypt  was also granted for the same reason.

Photo credit: l’Osservatore Romano

napier collins general congregationIn a sede vacante, nothing, it seems, is permanent, not even the daily running of the Holy See. While Cardinals Bertone and Sodano, as Camerlengo and Dean of the College of Cardinals respectively, have certain specific duties, these do not extend as far as the duties that a Pope or the Curia in normal circumstances would have. We are all waiting, in this period, for normalcy to resume, but for that we need a visible head, a new Supreme Pontiff.

In the meantime, starting this morning, the cardinals are presented with the current affairs in the Church during their General Congregations and if a situation calls for it they can act together, or task one of their own to perform his duties as he would when there is a Pope. In the case of Cardinal Bertone, he is aided by three cardinals, one each from the orders of bishops, priests and deacons, in managing the Holy See. These three cardinals are appointed for three days only, another indication of the impermanence of their authority. For the first three-day period, which started yesterday and will end tomorrow, the names of Cardinals Giovanni Re, Crescenzio Sepe and Franc Rode were drawn by lot.

The actual decisions and actions undertaken during the General Congregations, and of course the conclave, are subject to an oath of secrecy that the cardinals made yesterday morning. Cardinal Wilfrid Napier (pictured above with Cardinal Collins before the start of the first Congregation), who is perhaps the most active tweeting cardinal at the moment, told his followers this morning: “Given that Pledge of Confidentiality covers matters discussed in General Congregations, only very general comments can be made. Keep praying.” Several cardinals have already shut down their Twitter account or gone radio silent until after the conclave. A full list of twittering cardinals can be found here.

But in the meantime, while much may get done, we are still awaiting the arrival of the final cardinal electors. Only after they arrive can a date for the conclave be decided upon. Until then, with the final arrived expected to be Hong Kong’s Cardinal John Tong Hon sometime tomorrow, the cardinals will continue meeting once a day in the morning.

Photo credit: l’Osservatore Romano

Today, all the cardinals of the Church received the official letter summoning them to Rome. Cardinal Sodano, as dean of the College of Cardinals, signed the letter. Cardinal Simonis, emeritus archbishop of Utrecht, was one of the cardinals who received the summons, although, like many others, he is already in Rome. The image below shows the letter in the hands of the cardinal, who won’t  be able to vote in the conclave, as he is over the age of 80. But all cardinals, elector or not, are expected to take their responsibilities in managing the goods and needs of the Church and the faithful during the sede vacante, as well as preparing for the conclave.Cardinal Sodano’s letter invites the cardinals to the first two General Congregations on Monday. A date for the conclave may be decided upon then, but that is by no means certain. All indications are that the cardinals want time to talk and think.

letter sodano simonis

The electors number 117, although two of them have chosen to remain at home. So here they are, the 115 cardinal electors who will soon be entering the conclave, which they will not be leaving until they have elected a new Supreme Pontiff. As Emeritus Pope Benedict (how odd it is to write that!) said yesterday morning, the new Pope is among them.

electors

A short primer on who’s who among the electors, ordered by precedence (and from left to right and top to bottom, starting at top left and ending at bottom right, in the collage above):

  • Giovanni Cardinal Re, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops
  • Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, Secretary of State and Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church
  • Antonios Cardinal Naguib, Patriarch emeritus of Alexandria of the Copts
  • Béchara Cardinal Raï, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites
  • Godfried Cardinal Danneels, Archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels
  • Joachim Cardinal Meisner, Archbishop of Köln
  • Nicolás Cardinal López Rodríguez, Archbishop of Santo Domingo
  • Roger Cardinal Mahony, Archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles
  • Jaime Cardinal Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana
  • Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, Archbishop emeritus of Montréal
  • Vinko Cardinal Puljic, Archbishop of Vrhbosna
  • Juan Cardinal Sandoval Íñiguez, Archbishop emeritus of Guadalajara
  • Antonio Cardinal Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid
  • Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi, Archbishop emeritus of Milan
  • Polycarp Cardinal Pengo, Archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam
  • Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna
  • Norberto Cardinal Rivera Carrera, Archbishop of Mexico
  • Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago
  • Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, President of the Congregation for Catholic Education
  • Crescenzio Cardinal Sepe, Archbishop of Naples
  • Walter Cardinal Kasper, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  • Ivan Cardinal Dias, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation fo the Evangelisation of Peoples
  • Geraldo Cardinal Agnelo, Archbishop emritus of São Salvador da Bahia
  • Audrys Cardinal Backis, Archbishop of Vilnius
  • Francisco Cardinal Errázuriz Ossa, Archbishop emritus of Santiago
  • Julio Cardinal Terrazas Sandoval, Archbishop of Santa Cruz de la Sierra
  • Wilfrid Cardinal Napier, Archbishop of Durban
  • Oscar Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa
  • Juan Cardinal Cipriani Thorne, Archbishop of Lima
  • Cláudio Cardinal Hummes, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Clergy
  • Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires
  • José Cardinal Policarpo, Patriarch of Lisbon
  • Severino Cardinal Poletto, Archbishop of Turin
  • Karl Cardinal Lehmann, Bishop of Mainz
  • Angelo Cardinal Scola, Archbishop of Milan
  • Anthony Cardinal Okogie, Archbishop emeritus of Lagos
  • Gabriel Cardinal Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum
  • Carlos Cardinal Amigo Vallejo, Archbishop emeritus of Sevilla
  • Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia
  • Ennio Cardinal Antonelli, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Family
  • Peter Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
  • Telesphore Cardinal Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi
  • George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney
  • Josip Cardinal Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb
  • Jean-Baptiste Cardinal Pham Minh Man, Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City
  • Philippe Cardinal Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon
  • Péter Cardinal Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest
  • Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
  • Agostino Cardinal Vallini, Archpriest of St. John Lateran
  • Jorge Cardinal Urosa Savino, Archbishop of Caracas
  • Jean-Pierre Cardinal Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux
  • Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
  • Seán Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston
  • Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz, Archbishop of Kraków
  • Carlo Cardinal Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna
  • Seán Cardinal Brady, Archbishop of Armagh
  • Lluís Cardinal Martínez Sistach, Archbishop of Barcelona
  • André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris
  • Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa
  • Théodore-Adrien Cardinal Sarr, Archbishop of Dakar
  • Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay
  • Francisco Cardinal Robles Ortega, Archbishop of Guadalajara
  • Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston
  • Odilo Cardinal Scherer, Archbishop of São Paulo
  • John Cardinal Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi
  • Raúl Cardinal Vela Chiriboga, Archbishop emeritus of Quito
  • Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa
  • Paolo Cardinal Romeo, Archbishop of Palermo
  • Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington
  • Raymundo Cardinal Assis, Archbishop of Aparecida
  • Kazimierz Cardinal Nycz, Archbishop of Warsaw
  • Albert Cardinal Patabendige Don, Archbishop of Colombo
  • Reinhard Cardinal Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising
  • George Cardinal Alencherry, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly of the Syro-Malabars
  • Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto
  • Dominik Cardinal Duka, Archbishop of Prague
  • Willem Cardinal Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Betori, Archbishop of Florence
  • Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York
  • Rainer Cardinal Woelki, Archbishop of Berlin
  • John Cardinal Tong Hon, Bishop of Hong Kong
  • Baselios Cardinal Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars
  • John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja
  • Jesús Cardinal Salazar Gómez, Archbishop of Bogotá
  • Luis Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila
  • Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue
  • Attilio Cardinal Nicora, President of the Financial Information Authority
  • William Cardinal Levada, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • Franc Cardinal Rode,  Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  • Leonardo Cardinal Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
  • Giovanni Cardinal Lajolo, President emeritus of the Governorate of the Vatican City State
  • Paul Cardinal Cordes, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”
  • Angelo Cardinal Comastri, Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Stanislaw Cardinal Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
  • Raffaele Cardinal Farina, Librarian emeritus of the Vatican Apostolic Library
  • Angelo Cardinal Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints
  • Robert Cardinal Sarah, President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”
  • Francesco Cardinal Monterisi, Archpriest emeritus of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls
  • Raymond Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
  • Kurt Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  • Paolo Cardinal Sardi, Partron of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta
  • Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy
  • Velasio Cardinal De Paolis, Pontifical Delegate for the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ
  • Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture
  • Fernando Cardinal Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples
  • Manuel Cardinal Monteiro de Castro, Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary
  • Santos Cardinal Abril y Castelló, Archpriest of St. Mary Major
  • Antonio Cardinal Vegliò, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Bertello, President of the Governorate of the Vatican City State
  • Francesco Cardinal Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
  • João Cardinal Bráz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  • Edwin Cardinal O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
  • Domenico Cardinal Calcagno, President of the Adminstration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Versaldi, President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See
  • James Cardinal Harvey, Archpriest of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls

Who we will see in white on the balcony of St. Peter’s sometime later this month remains anyone’s guess. Only Our Lord knows and, as Cardinal Pell said, it is up to the electors to find out.

Photo credit: [1] RKK.nl, [2] collage my own.

With the Sunday off, the Synod skipped to day eight on Monday, with Cardinal John Tong Hon (at left pictured with the Holy Father) taking up the day’s presiding duties. and 251 Synod fathers in attendance. 26 fathers offered five-minute interventions during the morning session.

Lluís Cardinal Martínez Sistach, the archbishop of Barcelona, gave a few points to focus on in the new evangelisation, one of which was “[t]o improve Sunday Mass so that it will be a benchmark for the New Evangelization”. As source and summit of Christian life, the Mass can not be emphasised enough. If we don’t improve our celebration and participation in it to the utmost, any other undertaking, including the new evangelisation, has little chance of succeeding. Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, also noted this in his intervention.

Francesco Cardinal Coccopalmerio (pictured at right), president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, asked the following question: “[I]n carrying out the task of the new evangelization, would it be possible to consider some form of co-operation between the Catholic Church and the other Churches and ecclesial Communities?” adding, “I believe that an affirmative answer must be given to this question.”

The cardinal added that the division between Churches and church communities is “not entirely innocent in terms of the de-christianization of the Old Continent”. He emphasised that ecumenism or at least increased cooperation with the Orthodox Churches of the east is “particularly pressing” as both the Catholic and Orthodox Church now face similar challenges. “It would [...] seem very evident that a great ecumenical advantage would derive from such cooperation, and it would greatly consolidate the front of the forces fighting against secularization. It would also present an extraordinary sign to Islam,” he concluded.

Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, of Poznan in Poland, outlined a pressing issue regarding the youth in the heavily secularised world we live in.

“Our youth today find themselves in an unsustainable condition. On the one hand, they are thrown long before the appropriate mental age into a world rich in information, knowledge, sensations, and opportunities for encounters, but on the other hand, they are left alone by adults on the path of their formation.”

This is a recognisable fact for anyone working with young people, for example in education. The archbishop draws a possible solution from his own experience (and this is the strength of the Synod; the gathering of experiences from all over the world to benefit the Church):

“This situation requires an adequate response. Adults – in particular those who have drifted away from the Church – must reassume their responsibility.
In our diocese we have sought to help them in this, proposing a catechism for adults carried out by other adults. Inasmuch as the younger generations usually compare their faith with that of adults, baptized parents may again – for the love of their children – become their first and indispensable catechists.
Adult catechists, as witnesses of faith and bearers of the content of faith, are often better than priests at preparing other adults for their educative role.”

Cardinal John Njue (pictured at left), archbishop of Nairobi in Kenya, pointed at that it is not enough to have faith or even the intention to be faithful.

“Today, for a good number of people, God is not denied, but is unknown. Is it not necessary to examine, from this unique perspective, the present crisis in which society finds itself? It is time to throw open wide the doors of our Churches and to return to announcing the resurrection of Christ, whose witnesses we are. As the holy bishop Ignatius wrote, “It is not enough to be called Christians; we must be Christians by our witness.” If someone today wants to recognize Christians, he must be able to do so not on the basis of their intentions, but on the basis of their commitment in the faith. We have the duty to shape the whole of society with Christ’s teachings and spirit.”

Archbishop William Slattery, of Pretoria in South Africa, asked about the proper formation of seminarians, but also devoted a few words to how the Church makes use of the media, stating, “I like the policy of the English Church prior to the papal visit when they carefully selected and trained bright young people to defend and explain their faith. An attractive young lady doctor is much more effective in media propounding on medical issues than an elderly unmarried bishop.”

In the afternoon session there were 16 more interventions, among them those by Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg im Breisgau and Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück.

About the new media, Bishop Emmanuel Badejo, of Oyo in Nigeria, said the following:

“I would like this Synod to strongly reaffirm the role and responsibility of Catholic media professionals and practitioners in the New Evangelization and the need to pay particular attention to their spiritual development. Millions of youth all over the world are sharing the same stories, experiences and challenges, irrespective of their location, thanks to the new social, personal and digital media. The Church must humbly seek their confidence and trust knowing that youth prefer a co-communicator relationship to the old teacher-learner, speaker-listener model. When they feel like allies with the Church they can with the right format and language bring their Christian faith and values to the new social forums.”

At the end of the afternoon session, the Synod fathers were shown a film about the faith in Europe. Titled ‘Bells of Europe’, it features interviews with several important players in the field of faith, including Pope Benedict XVI. His contribution may be read here.

Photo credit: [1] L’Osservatore Romano, [2] nava m K0

On Thursday the Synod of Bishops was a background to the grand opening of the Year of Faith. In a 2.5-hour Mass marked with many memory’s to the Second Vatican Council, and attended by the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople and the Archbishop of Canterbury, in addition to several hundred Catholic prelates of various rites, Pope Benedict XVI gave a homily in which he referred to the modern world as experiencing an emptiness:

“Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual “desertification”. In the Council’s time it was already possible from a few tragic pages of history to know what a life or a world without God looked like, but now we see it every day around us. This void has spread. But it is in starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing, its vital importance for us, men and women. In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in today’s world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. And in the desert people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive. Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism.”

But in the documents of the Second Vatican Council we find a remedy to counter that void, he said.

“[D]uring the Council there was an emotional tension as we faced the common task of making the truth and beauty of the faith shine out in our time, without sacrificing it to the demands of the present or leaving it tied to the past: the eternal presence of God resounds in the faith, transcending time, yet it can only be welcomed by us in our own unrepeatable today. Therefore I believe that the most important thing, especially on such a significant occasion as this, is to revive in the whole Church that positive tension, that yearning to announce Christ again to contemporary man. But, so that this interior thrust towards the new evangelization neither remain just an idea nor be lost in confusion, it needs to be built on a concrete and precise basis, and this basis is the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the place where it found expression.”

The sixth general congregation, chaired by Cardinal John Tong Hon, met in the late afternoon, starting with the recital of Psalm 116. First item of the agenda was the continued voting for the Commission for the Message. After that, 11 Synod fathers made interventions.

Father Robert Prevost, Prior General of the Order of St. Augustine, was the first speaker, and he made some scathing, if truthful, remarks about modern media:

“At least in the contemporary western world, if not throughout the entire world, the human imagination concerning both religious faith and ethics is largely shaped by mass media, especially by television and cinema. Western mass media is extraordinarily effective in fostering within the general public enormous sympathy for beliefs and practices that are at odds with the Gospel.
However, overt opposition to Christianity by mass media is only part of the problem. The sympathy for anti-Christian lifestyle choices that mass media fosters is so brilliantly and artfully engrained in the viewing public, that when people hear the Christian message it often inevitably seems ideological and emotionally cruel by contrast to the ostensible humaneness of the anti-Christian perspective.”

His proposed solution is the introduction of a sense of Christians mystery.

“In order to combat successfully the dominance of the mass media over popular religious and moral imaginations, it is not sufficient for the Church to own its own television media or to sponsor religious films. The proper mission of the Church is to introduce people to the nature of mystery as an antidote to spectacle. Religious life also plays an important role in evangelization, pointing others to this mystery, through living faithfully the evangelical counsels.”

Comparing the clear proclamations of faith in both Islam and Judaism, Patriarch Grégoire III Laham, head of the Greek-Melkite Church, suggested a very clear task for the Synod:

“Our beautiful Christian faith is too complicated: the terms, their content and their explanation. We bathe in an ensemble of dogmas, of mysteries: the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, Redemption, the Sacraments (called mysteries by the Greeks).
These dogmas must be interpreted in a form capable of touching upon daily life, human aspirations, happiness and prosperity, the daily realities of our faithful.
From this, we can see the great importance and need for the New Evangelization to create a concise, precise and clear text on our Faith. This is important for our faithful ad intra, as well as for our fellow non-Christian citizens ad extra.
I hope that this proposition can find its path, and that theologians will be charged with it at the end of our Synod.”

Photo credit: [1] l’Osservatore Romano, [2] Alessia GIULIANI/CPP/CIRIC

“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.

In addition to delegates from the world’s bishops’ conferences, three president-delegates (Cardinals Tong Hon, Robles Ortega and Monsengwo Pasinya), the relator-general (Cardinal Wuerl) and the secretary (Archbishop Carré), the Holy Father specifically appointed 36 Synod fathers for this autumn’s Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will focus on the new evangelisation. Later, there will be additional lay men and women who will be invited to contribute as well.

The list of the 36 Synod Fathers is as follows:

  • Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals.
  • Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of Cologne, Germany.
  • Cardinal Vinko Puljic, archbishop of Vrhbosna, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and president of SECAM/SCEAM (Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar).
  • Cardinal Christoph Schönborn O.P., archbishop of Vienna, Austria.
  • Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia.
  • Cardinal Josip Bozanic, archbishop of Zagreb, Croatia.
  • Cardinal Péter Erdö, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary and president of CCEE (Council of European Episcopal Conferences).
  • Cardinal Agostino Vallini, His Holiness’ vicar general for the diocese of Rome.
  • Cardinal Lluis Martínez Sistach, archbishop of Barcelona, Spain.
  • Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, France.
  • Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India and secretary general of FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences).
  • Patriarch Francesco Moraglia of Venice, Italy.
  • Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria.
  • Archbishop Hector Ruben Aguer of La Plata, Argentina.
  • Archbishop Antonio Arregui Yarza of Guayaquil, Ecuador, president of the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference.
  • Archbishop John Atcherley Dew of Wellington, New Zealand, president of FCBCO (Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania).
  • Archbishop Jose Octavio Ruiz Arenas, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation.
  • Archbishop José Horacio Gomez of Los Angeles, U.S.A.
  • Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla, president of CELAM (Latin American Episcopal Council).
  • Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, England.
  • Archbishop Ricardo Antonio Tobon Restrepo of Medellin, Colombia.
  • Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle of Manila, Philippines.
  • Archbishop Filippo Santoro of Taranto, Italy.
  • Bishop Javier Echevarria Rodriguez, prelate of the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei.
  • Bishop Dominique Rey of Frejus-Toulon, France.
  • Bishop Menghisteab Tesfamariam M.C.C.J., eparch of Asmara, Eritrea.
  • Bishop Benedito Beni dos Santos of Lorena, Brazil.
  • Bishop Santiago Jaime Silva Retamales, auxiliary of Valparaiso, Chile and secretary general of CELAM.
  • Bishop Luigi Negri of San Marino-Montefeltro, Italy.
  • Bishop Alberto Francisco Sanguinetti Montero of Canelones, Uruguay.
  • Bishop Enrico Dal Covolo S.D.B., rector of the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.
  • Fr. Julian Carron, president of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation.
  • Fr. Renato Salvatore M.I., superior general of the Clerks Regular Ministers to the Sick (Camillians).
  • Fr. Heinrich Walter, superior general of the Schönstatt Fathers.
  • Fr. Jose Panthaplamthottiyil C.M.I., prior general of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate

Four of the Synod Fathers: Cardinal Bozanic, Archbishops Onaiyekan and Longley, and Fr. Walter.

The list is an interesting mix of the old guard (Sodano, Meisner) and the up and coming (Gomez, Tagle), and also includes a number of prelates who have recently worked closely with the pope on papal visits (Pengo, Longley, Onaiyekan, Negri). Although hand-picked for the Synod, these prelates are not more or less important then the delegates from all over the world. They will be full and active participants on the Synod, though, and at least some of them may be expected to contribute significantly.

As the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation comes ever closer, the Holy Father today appointed three president-delegates. As this official page explains the duties of the president-delegates are:

1: to guide the workings of the Synod according to the faculties entrusted to him in the letter of delegation, following the agenda and observing the procedural norms set down in this Ordo;
2: to assign to certain Members, when deemed opportune, particular tasks, so that the Assembly might better proceed with its work;
3: to sign the Acts of the Assembly. If there are several President-Delegates, all sign the Acts concluding the Assembly.

In other words, they are ultimately responsible for how the Assembly functions on a day-to-day basis, with a special focus on the individual competencies of the participating bishops. The president-delegates for this fall’s Assembly are John Cardinal Tong Hon, bishop of Hong Kong; Francisco Cardinal Robles Ortega, archbishop of Guadalajara; and Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya (pictured), archbishop of Kinshasa.

Together with the general rapporteur, Donald Cardinal Wuerl, and the special secretary, Archbishop Pierre-Marie Carré, they represent five continents. A reflection, perhaps, of the international nature of the Synod.

In the run-up to the previous consistory, we’ve heard often that one of the duties of cardinals is to aid the pope in all manner of Church-related affairs. Exactly how that takes shape became clear yesterday, as the new cardinals have been appointed to seats on various congregations, tribunals, councils and committees. Here follows a list of the dicasteries and the new cardinals that were assigned to them.

  • Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Cardinals Alencherry, Filoni and Coccopalmerio
  • Congregation for the Oriental Churches: Cardinals Alencherry, Dolan, Muresan, Filoni and O’Brien
  • Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments: Cardinal Vegliò
  • Congregation for the Causes of the Saints: Cardinals Monteiro de Castro and Abril y Castelló
  • Congregation for Bishops: Cardinals Monteiro de Castro, Abril y Castelló, Bertello and Versaldi
  • Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples: Cardinals Tong Hon, Abril y Castelló, Bertello and Calcagno
  • Congregation for the Clergy: Cardinals Eijk and Braz de Aviz
  • Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life: Cardinals Duka and Versaldi
  • Congregation for Education: Cardinals Collins, Eijk, Betori, Woelki, Filoni, Braz de Aviz and O’Brien
  • Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura: Cardinals Coccopalmerio and Versaldi
  • Pontifical Council for the Laity: Cardinal Vegliò
  • Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity: Cardinals Woelki and Coccopalmerio
  • Pontifical Council for the Family: Cardinal Vegliò
  • Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: Cardinals Duka and Bertello
  • Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”: Cardinal O’Brien
  • Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People: Cardinal Monteiro de Castro
  • Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers: Cardinal Calcagno
  • Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue: Cardinal Tong Hon
  • Pontifical Council for Culture: Cardinal Betori
  • Pontifical Council for Social Communications: Cardinals Collins and Dolan
  • Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation: Cardinal Dolan
  • Pontifical Committee for the International Eucharistic Congresses: Cardinal Braz de Aviz

Both new to the Congregation for Education: Cardinals Thomas Collins and Wim Eijk

All the Church’s cardinals under the age of 80 (and some over 80) have one or more functions within the dicasteries of the Roman Curia. This is in addition to their regular duties as diocesan bishops or curial prelates. In practice it means that they’ll have to be in Rome a bit more often than before.

Our own Cardinal Eijk has been appointed to the Congregations for Clergy (responsible for all secular priests and deacons) and Education (seminaries and Catholic schools). He will than be in Rome for up to four times a year, as these dicasteries meet. Cardinal Eijk will not be needed in Rome for the day-to-day affairs of the Congregations and, even then, he will of course be able to do a significant amount of work from Utrecht.

These appointments form one of two steps that fully integrate new cardinals into the curia. The other step is the official taking possession of their title churches. This can take some time, sometimes up to a year after the consistory in which a cardinal was created.  Of the latest batch, only Cardinals Filoni and Grech have done so. Cardinals Becker, Monteiro de Castro and Tong Hon will take possession of their churches today, and Cardinal Coccopalmerio will follow on Thursday. The dates for the other cardinals are not yet known.

Photo credit: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Cardinal Eijk holding the bull of his assigned title church

Last week, I tried to predict which title churches and deaconries the new cardinals would be getting. While much was guesswork, I did succeed in making a few reasonable guesses: Sant’ Atanasio might go to Cardinal Muresan or Cardinal Alencherry; Nostra Signora di Guadalupe a Monte Mario to Cardinal Dolan or Cardinal Collins; San Gioacchino ai Prati di Castello to Cardinal Eijk; San Bernardo alle Terme to Cardinal Alencherry; San Giuseppe all’ Aurelio to Cardinal Woelki; San Gerardo Maiella to Cardinal Duka; Santissimo Redentore e Sant’ Alfonso in Via Merulana to Cardinal Dolan or Cardinal Collins; Sacro Cuore di Gesù a Castro Pretorio to Cardinal Ries. I also suggested to San Patrizio would remain vacant and that San Teodoro would go to a cardinal with some link with the Orthodox Churches.

Well, in the end I guessed right three times: Cardinal Allencherry did get San Bernardo alle Terme, Cardinal Dolan got Nostra Signora di Guadalupe a Monte Mario, Cardinal Muresan got Sant’ Atanasio.

Here is the full list of new cardinals with their title churches and deaconries

  • Fernando Cardinal Filoni, Cardinal-deacon of Nostra Signora di Coromoto in San Giovanni di Dio
  • Manuel Cardinal Monteiro de Castro, Cardinal-deacon of San Domenico di Guzman
  • Santos Cardinal Abril y Castellò, Cardinal-deacon of San Ponziano
  • Antonio Maria Cardinal Vegliò, Cardinal-deacon of San Cesareo in Palatio
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Bertello, Cardinal-deacon of Santi Vito, Modesto e Crescenzia
  • Francesco Cardinal Coccopalmerio, Cardinal-deacon of San Giuseppe del Falegnami
  • João Cardinal Bráz de Aviz, Cardinal-deacon of Sant’ Elena fuori Porta Prenestina
  • Edwin Frederick Cardinal O’Brien, Cardinal-deacon of San Sebastiano al Palatino
  • Domenico Cardinal Calcagno, Cardinal-deacon of Santissima Annunciazione della Beata Vergine Maria a Via Ardeatina
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Versaldi, Cardinal-deacon of Sacro Cuore di Gesù a Castro Pretorio
  • George Cardinal Alencherry, Cardinal-priest of San Bernardo alle Terme
  • Thomas Christopher Cardinal Collins, Cardinal-priest of San Patrizio
  • Dominik Cardinal Duka, Cardinal-priest of Santi Marcellino e Pietro
  • Willem Jacobus Cardinal Eijk, Cardinal-priest of San Callisto
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Betori, Cardinal-priest of San Marcello
  • Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, Cardinal-priest of Nostra Signora di Guadalupe a Monte Mario
  • Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki, Cardinal-priest of San Giovanni Maria Vianney
  • John Cardinal Tong Hon, Cardinal-priest of Regina Apostolorum
  • Lucian Cardinal Muresan, Cardinal-priest of Sant’ Atanasio
  • Julien Cardinal Ries, Cardinal-deacon of San Antonio de Padova a Circonvallazione Appia
  • Prosper Cardinal Grech, Cardinal-deacon of Santa Maria Goretti
  • Karl Josef Cardinal Becker, Cardinal-deacon of San Giuliano Martire

San Callisto

As you will have noticed when comparing this list to the one in my previous post, there are five new deaconries and one new title church on the list. The Holy Father is free to create and abolish such churches as he sees fit, of course, but it’s interesting to wonder why some titles remain vacant as new ones are created.

Cardinal Eijk’s title church is San Callisto, located in Trastevere. The church itself dates from the 17th century, although there has been a church dedicated to Saint Pope Callistus I since the 8th century. The holy pope himself reigned in the 3rd century and was martyred and buried on the site where his church now stands. As cardinal-priest of this church, Cardinal Eijk succeeds Corrado Cardinal Ursi, the former archbishop of Naples who died in 2003. The later Popes Pius VII (pope from 1800 to 1823) and Gregory XVI (1831 to 1846) also held this title church.

It is a fairly small church, as Roman churches go, with a single aisle and chapels on either side.

In essence, a cardinal will have little to do with his title church or deaconry, although some are tasked with the financial upkeep of their assigned church or deaconry. All such churches, though, will prominently feature the coat of arms of their cardinal-protector on the facade.

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.

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Sancta Maria, hortus conclusus, ora pro nobis!

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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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