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There is a lot going on in the Diocese of Limburg, not least when it comes to the speculation about what Bishop Tebartz-van Elst did and did not do. Whatever the truth of all this may turn out to be (and that is, it would seem, now up to either Pope Francis or Cardinal Marc Ouellet’s Congregation for Bishops – or both), it seems that the bishop is by no means the only one who bears responsibility for the excessive costs of the St. Nicholas centre, which includes the bishop’s private appartments.
The most striking name involved is that of Archbishop Jean-Claude Périsset (pictured), until about a month ago the Apostolic Nuncio to Germany. Not only was he aware of the construction plans for the diocesan centre in Limburg an der Lahn, but he also agreed to the plan of splitting the project into ten smaller ones, thus avoiding seeking Vatican, as is mandatory with plans costing more than 5 million Euros. All this according to internal reports that German press agency KNA got their hands on.
Not only does this indicate that Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, in Germany media these days often called the “luxury bishop” or even the “bishop of bling”, is not automatically the sole responsible party (although he carries the major part of the burden out of his responsibility as ordinary), but it may also shed a light on Archbishop Périsset’s retirement eight months before he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75…
Oh well, all this may turn out to be mere speculation, but it is striking. One thing is certain: the situation is not as clear-cut as we, and the media, would perhaps like. It seems ever more likely that Bishop Tebartz-van Elst, consciously or not, has made some serious errors of judgement. But others who he called in for advice and assistance, certainly aided him in that.
Although it is pertinently not an Apostolic Visitation but a ‘fraternal visit’, the dispatch of Giovanni Cardinal Lajolo to the German Diocese of Limburg indicates that the standoff between bishop and faithful there is being taken seriously in Rome.
In a letter dated 3 September, Cardinal Marc Ouellet of the Congregation for Bishops expresses his fullest confidence in Bishop Franz-Peter Tebarzt-van Elst and underlines the purpose of Cardinal Lajolo’s forthcoming visit:
“Being very familiar with the situation of the Church in the German dioceses from his time as Apostolic Nuncio, the cardinal will enter into a fraternal dialogue with you, Your Excellence, with the cathedral chapter, but also with other relevant persons, with an alert eye on the needs of your local Church, help to distinguish the spirit and, where appropriate, to fraternally exhort, mainly in order to support and encourage your episcopal ministry towards peace and unity.”
As the above quote points out, Cardinal Lajolo was Apostolic Nuncio to Germany from 1995 to 2003. He was later recalled to Rome to work in the Secretariat of State and was later the President of the Governorate of the Vatican City State from 2006 until his retirement in 2011.
Limburg’s Bishop Tebartz-van Elst met with Cardinal Ouellet on 28 August in Rome and requested that an Apostolic Visitation be made to his diocese. Such a measure would mean an official investigation of, in this case, the finances of the bishop and the diocese, as well as the conduct of the bishop and the parties opposed to him. The visitor would then draft a report to authoritatively identify the root of the problems and recommend solutions. THis visit will not go that far, although Cardinal Lajolo will, as Cardinal Ouellet’s letter says, meet with all parties involved to resolve the situation amicably, so that Bishop Tebartz-van Ekst may continue his ministry in peace and unity.
In Germany, few bishops have received as much attention as the bishop of Limburg, Msgr. Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst. This attention is the result of an escalation of tensions within the Diocese of Limburg, located in south-central Germany. At the heart of these tensions lie questions about the bishop’s expenses, mostly concerning the building of a new bishop’s house and a costly flight to India. Another factor is the perceived orthodoxy of Bishop Tebartz-van Elst in a liberal diocese, and his perceived lack of communication.
Last week, Bishop Tebartz-van Elst travelled to Rome to meet with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. The purpose of the meeting was undisclosed, although it is assumed to have been related to the situation in the diocese.
On Saturday, Bishop Tebartz-van Elst wrote the following letter to all faithful in the Diocese of Limburg, a conciliatory gesture that will hopefully start easing the tensions:
To all the priests and deacons in the Diocese of Limburg,
To all coworkers in the pastoral care,
To all religious communities,
To all Synodal departments,
To all Catholics in the communities, pastoral areas and parishes in the Church of Limburg,
The Bishop of Limburg
31 August 2013
Dear sisters and brothers in the Diocese of Limburg,
I know that many of you, in these past days, have been concerned about the future of our diocese, that there are many unanswered question and also discontent and criticism. That is why I turn directly to you today.
It is hardly possible to answer every single question in this letter. A closer look at and review of many details concerning the costs of the new bishop’s house (Diocesan Centre St. Nicholas) will be necessary. I gladly inform you that everything will be done to answer this question as clearly as possible. And even more importantly: I want to invite you all, every single parish community in our diocese, for a visit to the Diocesan Centre St. Nicholas in Limburg and for a personal meeting with me. That is not possible within a few days, so I have to ask you for patience. It will cost time, but I gladly take that time. The bishop’s house is our common house, and it is open to you all.
Some of what has been said and written in the past few weeks has hurt me. Other things have also caused me to think and have contributed to me seeing some decisions in a different light. Looking back, I would have done some things differently. It is true, even a bishop is not immune to doubts and must be able to bear criticism.
That is why I want to especially turn towards those who are observing me from a critical distance. Let us approach one another! I appreciate your skeptical and critical questions. But even more than that, I need your trust. No Christian community can come alive where only suspicions and mistrust rule.
I have already met this week with representatives of our synodal bodies in the diocese and held many conversations. Together we have considered how we can deepen our established synodal dialogue. For the future we both need dialogue and unity. Episcopal care consists precisely of concern for this cooperation.
I ask you all in these undoubtedly difficult days for your prayer for our diocese. And also I personally need your prayer. Be assured that I also include all of you in my prayers. Let us travel the road which lies before us together, in full faith in the risen Lord. Not we, but He is at the heart. And how comforting on our way is this Word of the Lord: He is with us, always!
With heartfelt greetings and blessings
+ Dr. Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst
Bishop of Limburg
(Original German text available here.)
Photo credit: Martin Oeser/ddp
As announced today, Pope Francis will be releasing his first encyclical on Friday. Titled Lumen fidei, “The light of faith”, it has been co-authored by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. Pope Francis has reworked a draft created by the emeritus pontiff, and as such the encyclical will be the third in a series on the theological virtues of hope, charity and faith. Benedict XVI published Deus caritas est – on Christian love – in 2005, and Spe Salvi – On Christian hope – in 2007.
Lumen fidei is published very early in this pontificate – less than four months into it – , a fact no doubt due to the fact that the previous Pope already drafted an initial version. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI took eight months to release his first encyclical. Pope John Paul II, in 1979, released his first five months after his election. Pope Paul VI took more than a year, Pope John XXIII eight months, Pope Pius XII seven months, Pope Pius XI ten months, and Pope Benedict XV released his first a mere two months after his election in 1914.
The encyclical will be presented on Friday morning at the Vatican by Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella and Gerhard Müller, the heads of the Vatican offices for bishops, new evangelisation and the doctrine of the faith. That, in itself, may give us some hints at how we should read Lumen fidei: as an integral element of the Year of Faith and the new evangelisation, and with perhaps a special focus on the role of the bishops in that endeavour.
Although the first weeks of a new Pope’s reign are undoubtedly not standard, there are duties which assert themselves fairly soon. Especially this year, the new Pope has had to devote himself to the duties of Holy Week, but there are also other duties related to the government of the Church which are being picked up again. One of these is the regular audiences with members of the Curia, and here we may keep a watchful eye for the future plans of Pope Francis regarding that same Curia.
In the past few days, four curial prelates have met with Pope Francis: Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches (and fellow Argentinean); Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Consecrated and Apostolic Life; and Cardinal Marc Ouellet (pictured), Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
Of course, the fact that these cardinals were among the first to meet officially with the Holy Father may be the result of pure chance, but it may also indicate who Pope Francis wanted to speak with most urgently. Cardinal Cordes’ work for the Holy See’s charitable arm certainly fits with the Pope’s concern for the poor and Cardinal Bráz de Aviz could have been on the list because Pope Francis was himself a member of a religious order. Cardinal Sandri’s audience may in part have been held because of their shared nationality, but may also point towards the importance that the Holy Father attaches to the Churches of the East. Cardinal Ouellet’s visit, finally, could be the most interesting.
Shortly after his election, Pope Francis spoke privately with Cardinal Ouellet, giving him, in the cardinal’s words, very concrete instructions. What these are have not been revealed. Could they indicate a new role for the Canadian cardinal within the Curia?
On the other hand, Cardinal Ouellet and Pope Francis may have simply been discussing the work of the Congregation for Bishops and upcoming appointments and transfers of new bishops.
Photo credit: PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images
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.
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.
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:  RKK.nl,  collage my own.
In the final days before the Congregation for Bishops ceases its regular work when the Pope’s abdication goes into effect, it seems it wants to close some open files. Yesterday and today we saw a whole raft of appointments in such diverse countries as Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Tunisia and Congo, as well as in the Holy See’s diplomatic representation in several other countries.
Standing out are the appointments of Archbishop Ilario Antoniazzi of Tunis and Bishop Miguel Angel Olaverri Arroniz (pictured) of Pointe-Noire in Congo. Tunis is one of northern Africa’s major archdioceses. The previous archbishop, Msgr. Maroun Elias Nimeh Lahham, was called to Jerusalem as an auxiliary bishop in January of last year. Pointe-Noire, then, lost her previous bishop, Msgr. Jean-Claude Makaya Loembe, when he was removed from his office because of mismanagement in March of 2011. He was one of the handful of bishops who lost their jobs under Pope Benedict XVI.
Among the reassignments of Apostolic Nuncios (five were appointed or reassigned today) is Msgr. Ettore Balestrero, who was the Undersecretary for the Relations with States at the Secretariat of State until today. He was assigned as Nuncio to Colombia, and some see this as a result of his name having been mentioned in the context of the Vatileaks scandal. Whether that is true is anyone’s guess, of course, but it does stand out.
The Prefect of the Congregation for Bishop, Marc Cardinal Ouellet, is considered a papabile, so perhaps the Congregation is wise to get as much work done in these last days: who knows, she may lose her prefect during the conclave…
Photo credit: Javier Valiente
Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and these days the papal delegate to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, yesterday apologised once again for the sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy. He did so in a homily given at Station Island in Lough Derg, an ancient pilgrimage site in the north of Ireland.
Prior to the Mass and homily, Cardinal Ouellet met for two hours with various victims of sexual abuse, which was a deeply moving encounter, as the cardinal said. He stayed overnight at the island, together with Archbishop Charles Brown, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, and Bishop Liam MacDaid of Clogher, the diocese in which Lough Derg is located. At the time of his ordination, in July of 2010, Bishop MacDaid said about the abuse crisis, “We [the church] have been brought to our knees but maybe that is no bad thing,” which is exactly what the delegation did at Station island. They fasted and joined other pilgrims in acts of penitence.
Following the homily, the following intercessions were prayed:
- For the Church: that its leaders be bestowed with wisdom and courage to strengthen people’s faith and nourish them on their journey. Lord, hear us.
- For all of us here present: that we may be the salt of the earth for those around us and a light to guide people on their pilgrim way. Lord, hear us.
- For the failure to love, respect, nurture and cherish young people, particularly the most vulnerable, we ask your forgiveness. Lord, hear us.
- For the crimes and sins of sexual and physical abuse perpetrated against children and young people, especially in Church-run institutions, by clergy and other servants of the Church. Lord, hear us.
- For the inadequate response often given by Church leaders when abused people told their stories, we ask forgiveness. Lord, hear us.
- That all whose lives have been broken by abuse of any kind may experience support and lasting healing. Lord, hear us.
- For personal intentions, for intentions of other pilgrims and for all who are sick. Lord, hear us.
- For all who have been bereaved, and for our dead, especially family members and other loved ones; for those who died recently, all who have been pilgrims to Lough Derg and for those who died tragically or through violence. Lord, hear us.
- Lord God, through the intercession of Patrick our Patron, hear the prayers of your people gathered here in faith and hope. As you nourish us with your word, give us also the bread that gives us life – Jesus Christ your Son and our Lord, who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.
On the world stage, Cardinal Ouellet is becoming the Church’s point man when it comes to personal account with victims and internal reparation for the sins committed. In February, he led a penitential liturgy in Rome, and as the responsibility of bishops in cases of sexual abuse is ever under scrutiny in and outside of the Church, it is sensible for the prelate in charge of appointments of bishops to be closely involved.
A translation of the Cardinal’s homily is available here.
Photo credit: Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference
Just to reflect upon, and see what has been said by another Curial prelate, here is my translation of the homily that Marc Cardinal Ouellet gave at a penitential liturgy on Tuesday evening, in Rome’s Sant’ Ignazio de Loyola in Campo Marzio.
The symposium, which one of the participants considers to signal “a new baseline” for the Church, ended today, but in many places much of the work is now beginning. If anything, the past four days have shown the world that the Church is no longer willing to hide from the truth. Instead, it welcomes that truth and wants to show the world, as a leading example, that the truth really does set free.
Photo credit: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images