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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
In an address to the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum“on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI again referred to his Christmas address to the Curia – which caused such a stir in the Netherlands especially, as local media totally failed to report it correctly - and to the sensitive topic of marriage.
The main topic of the address was the Christian anthropology, or idea of what man is in his deepest nature, and how this should be used in works of charity, which is what “Cor Unum” is engaged in. Quoting the following passage from his earlier address to the Curia, “Man calls his nature into question … From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be”, he warned against an anthropology that is the result of a “materialistic vision of man”. Identifying such an vision as a “shadow that obscures God’s plan”, the pope warned that “[t]his is a radical negation of man’s creatureliness and filial condition, which leads to a tragic solitude.”
Christian anthropology, the Holy Father explained, is based on the idea of “man in his integral dignity, with respect for his twofold vertical and horizontal dimension”. And that is also the direction that the Church’s development programs, many of which under the auspices of “Cor Unum”, are oriented in.
“The Christian vision of man is, in fact, a great “yes” to the dignity of the person called to intimate communion with God, a filial communion, humble and confident. The human being is neither an individual subsisting in himself nor an anonymous element of the collective. He is rather a singular and unrepeatable person intrinsically ordered to relationship and sociality. For this reason the Church stresses her great “yes” to the dignity and beauty of marriage as an expression of a faithful and fecund alliance between man and woman, and says “no” to such philosophies as the philosophy of gender. The Church is guided by the fact that the reciprocity between man and woman is the expression of the beauty of the nature willed by the Creator.”
Those last lines, referring to both marriage and gender theory, are linked to the Christmas message, in which Pope Benedict spoke about gender and human nature as created by God (and not, as some would have us believe, about homosexuality and same-sex marriage).
More than a year ago I wrote about the appointment of Msgr. Karel Kasteel, former secretary of “Cor Unum”, as postulator for the beatification phase of Dora Visser and Alfons Ariëns. The process of the former is now making headway.
On Monday Archbishop Wim Eijk swore in a three-member historical commission tasked with conducting a historical investigation of the life of Servant of God Dora Visser and create a written report, which will be used to establish the vita documentata. The aim of that work is to demonstrate the virtuous life of a candidate for beatification.
The historical commission is pictured above with the archbishop (centre), Auxiliary Bishop Hoogenboom (behind him) and chancellor Zuijdwijk (second from left). They are chairman H.H.M. Jansen (left), secretary M.L.N.M Rijmers (right) and general member L.A.M. Schulte (second from right).
Auxiliary Bishop Theodorus Hoogenboom, the archdiocese reports, is working to create an ecclesiastical court for the beatification process which is to conduct a trial on the diocesan level about life and virtues of Dora Visser. A similar court took the first steps towards possible beatification in 2005. Msgr. Hoogenboom hopes to have the court in place before the summer.
Photo credit: Archdiocese of Utrecht
On the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated much of Haiti, especially the capital Port-au-Prince, the Catholic Church makes an effort to continue to assist the hundreds of thousands victims. Robert Cardinal Sarah of “Cor Unum” is in the country to coordinate continued practical aid, and today Pope Benedict XVI gives the people of Port-au-Prince a new spiritual shepherd.
The previous archbishop of the city, Msgr. Joseph Miot, died in the earthquake, but now his successor has been named. It is Msgr. Guire Poulard, until today the bishop of Les Cayes, also in Haiti. A year-long vacancy of a see is not out of the ordinary, although it’s not the rule either, but this appointment is undoubtedly timed to coincide with the anniversary of the earthquake and the death of Archbishop Miot. In the overwhelmingly Catholic country, it will boost morale for many, and hopefully Archbishop Poulard, cooperating with the Catholic charities, and the American bishops coordinating those, can give a renewed sense of purpose to the people and the aid they still barely receive.
The archbishop-elect is the tenth bishop of Port-au-Prince. He was ordained a priest for the archdiocese in 1972. In 1988 he was appointed as bishop of Jacmel and in 2009 of Les Cayes.
At the same time as Msgr. Poulard’s appointment, the administrator of the remains of the cathedral, Msgr. Glandas Toussaint, was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Port-au-Prince. His titular see will be Senez, a former diocese in France that dates back to the fifth century.
Ever so gently, the natural process changes the composition of the Curia in Rome. Yesterday, two cardinals retired for reasons of age. Both men, Cláudio Cardinal Hummes of the Congregation for Clergy, and Paul Josef Cardinal Cordes of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, are one year past the required retirement age of 75.
Their successors were announced on the very same day. Cardinal Hummes, in a relatively unusual move, is succeeded by the secretary of the congregation he headed for four years. Italian Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, 66, is now the prefect. He is generally seen is an intelligent, levelheaded and honest man. As prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy he will be responsible for the affairs concerning diocesan priests, as well as the legal aspects of running parishes. In February he wrote a letter to Archbishop Eijk of Utrecht, clarifying the latter’s right to regulate employment in his cathedral parish. Archbishop Piacenza again made an appearance in my blog with a letter to all the priests.
The Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, which is responsible for all charitable actions and initiatives that relate to the care of the needy, will now be headed by Archbishop Robert Sarah (65). Until now, the Guinean-born archbishop was secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.
Both archbishops, as heads of a congregation and a pontifical council, are very likely candidates for the red cardinal’s hat in an upcoming consistory. They’ll then join their predecessors who, not being 80 yet, can still vote in a conclave.
Msgr. Karel Kasteel is the most senior Dutch prelate in the Vatican and works as the secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and Dean of the Apostolic Chamber. Last week he given another job, loftily called postulator of the apostolic phase in the beatification processes of Alphons Ariëns and Dora Visser. Archbishop Wim Eijk had suggested Msgr. Kasteel for that role and the Holy See agreed.
I met Msgr. Kasteel once; a very jovial man and a storyteller.
In his new function, he will have to provide evidence that the would-be beatified people heroically displayed Christian virtues, and will have to provide evidence of any miracles achieved on their intercession.
The process for Father Alphons Ariëns started seriously in 2005, when the Archdiocese of Utrecht invited people to come forward with testimonies. Father Ariëns (1860-1928) was a priest of the archdiocese who fought for improved workers’ conditions in the textile mills of Twente, and also combatted alcohol abuse.
Dora, or Dorothea, Visser (1819-1876) was a mystic, partly paralysed from youth and suffered the stigmata since 1843. In 2005, a diocesan court judged that a man was cured in 1999 on her intercession. A vita documentata, an account of her life, is being collected to be sent on to Rome, when the final decision must be made.
The entire process of beatification is an intricate and interesting one, which sometimes can take decades. Let’s hope, at the very least for Msgr. Kasteel’s sake, that it won’t take as long in these two cases.
Big day tomorrow in Utrecht: the consecration of two new auxiliary bishops for the archdiocese. Msgr. Herman Woorts and Msgr. Ted Hoogenboom will be consecrated by Archbishop Eijk, Bishop Hans van den Hende and Bishop Johannes de Kok o.f.m. , emeritus auxiliary of Utrecht. I’ve been trying to figure it if the Mass is going to be broadcast anywhere online, but I’ve had no luck just yet.
The website of the archdiocese reports the attendance of all Dutch bishops, the nuntius, Cardinal Simonis and Msgr. Kareel Kasteel, secretary of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, and a number of foreign bishops. I expect one or more bishops from Belgium and perhaps from Germany (Bishop Felix Genn of Münster or Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of OsnaBrück, for example).
I’ll try to share some photos once they become available, because bishops aren’t consecrated every day, after all.