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Simply because it’s always good to read something by the great Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, I have translated an interview he gave to Belgian magazine Knack. The interview was conducted by Walter Pauli and subsequently shared in full on Facebook by Fr. Felix van Meerbergen, and covers such topics as foreign priests, Catholic funerals, the archbishop’s efforts to be everywhere in his archdiocese, the attacks on him by Femen and other leftwing loonies, homosexuality (of course), Pope Francis (including a theoretical papal visit to Brussels), and more.
A good read which shows some unexpected sides of the archbishop. Who knew he is apparently a good entertainer, and you have to admire his attitude towards the attacks against him, which I shared on Facebook yesterday:
“The Femen attack was the most enjoyable: I only got water on me. The pie I got in my face in the cathedral in 2010 was decorated with strawberries, and that tasted nice. Only in Louvain-la-Neuve it was mostly unpleasant: those pizzas were really greasy. Terrible.”
There’s more, so read my translation here.
Photo credit: Belga
Bishop Aloys Jousten of Liège has tendered his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI. He celebrated his 75th birthday on Friday, thus reaching the mandatory age on which bishops must offer their resignation to the Holy Father, formally requesting the appointment of a successor. The day of such an appointment may well be quite a while off since there is no rule that the pope must accept a resignation when he receives the request for it.
Bishop Jousten is Liège’s 91st bishop, part of a lineage that dates back to the early eighth century. As far as age is concerned, he is the most senior active bishop of Belgium.
Liège is the oldest diocese of Belgium, if we take it for the rightful successor to the suppressed dioceses of Maastricht and Tongeren. Established in 720, it was never suppressed, although it did lose and gain territory over the centuries. It is centered around the cathedral of Saint Paul and is home to three minor basilicas, the Marian shrine of Banneux and the former cathedral of the suppressed Diocese of Eupen-Malmedy, in which circumscription Bishop Jousten was born and worked as a priest and later dean before his appointment as Liège’s 91st bishop in 2001.
Under Bishop Jousten’s leadership, the Catholic population of the diocese remained steady at 68.4 %, although the number of priests dropped with about 100. The number of permanent deacons remained around 75.
By word of the diocesan vicar, the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch has released an open letter, addressed to the “parishioners of Someren and Lierop and other interested parishioners elsewhere”, about ecumenism. The aforementioned parishes had earlier cancelled a planned ‘ecumenical Eucharist’, after the diocese said that something like that is not allowed. The explanation offered by Fr. Ron van den Hout (pictured below)should not come as a surprise to anyone with some understanding of what the Church teaches about ecumenism and the nature of the Eucharist.
Below I have translated the core passages of the letter, which can be read in full, and in Dutch, here.
“The Catholic Church encourages ecumenical contacts with Protestant communities. They should get to know each other; they can undertake social activities together; they can listen to the Word of the God and pray together. It is however not permitted to celebrate the Eucharist or Last Supper together. That prohibition has been repeated time and again by the Popes, but also by the Dutch bishops. Why is it not permitted? Because Last Supper and Eucharist, although they both refer back to the institution and assignment of the Lord, are not the same. The Roman Catholic Church believes that the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is made sacramentally present, and that bread and wine truly and permanently become the Body and Blood of Christ. In the words of the Second Vatican Council, this Eucharist is source and summit of the Church’s life. According to Catholic understanding only a validly ordained priest can consecrate the Eucharist. Protestants don’t have validly ordained priests. They do not believe in the true transformation of bread and wine and have a more symbolic understanding of this sacrament. That is the reason why the Church does not allow a joint celebration. She also does not allow non-Catholics to receive Communion and Catholics to take part in the Protestant Last Supper. This in order to prevent confusion regarding this sacrament which for us is the heart of faith.
Misguided ecumenical actions, such as joint celebration of the Eucharist/Last Supper, hurt the unity and do not advance ecumenism, on the contrary. Unity is then no unity of faith, but a unity in feeling. What matters is that we as church communities, and so not so much as individual parishes and communities, learn to discover, through discussion, conversation and study, what the Lord truly intended with His Church and the sacrament of unity. In the meantime we pray in parishes and communities for the Holy Spirit’s help. Only He can bring true unity closer, step by step.”
The diocese’s letter comes in the wake of some discussion which mostly focussed on the perceived authoritative stance of the diocese. Several media have published this letter as a press release, much like it earlier published a critical letter on a local newspaper’s front page.
The parish councils of three parishes in the Diocese of Roermond have come up with a solution for the increasing demand of funeral services in a church, but without all the trappings of a Mass. Upon enquiries from the diocese, the parish priest, Father Ralf Schwillens has emphasised that the services will retain an “ecclesiastical character”, but the proposal remains that families can rent a church for a funeral service without a priest (and without Communion, it must be said), and have great liberty in the choice of rituals, music, poems and speeches.
The diocese is not in favour of this “new form” which aims to lure people, who otherwise would limit their funeral service to crematorium or cemetery, back to the Church.
While the goal of getting people back into the church is a lofty one, I have my doubts if this proposal is a good idea. Despite the aforementioned promises of the parish priest it gives the family of the deceased enormous freedom in choosing things that are not necessarily compatible with the location (although they may, admittedly, choose things that are compatible, of course).
A Catholic church is not merely a building. While it may sometimes be used for other purposes than the celebration of Mass or the administering of the sacraments, its uses must always be in accordance with the Catholic identity of the building.
It is a sad fact that there will not always be a priest available to offer a funeral Mass, and neither will the deceased or his or her family be wanting a funeral Mass. That does not mean that everything is allowed or desirable. A funeral in a Catholic church should, by that fact, be Catholic, even if there is no priest available and therefore no funeral Mass possible. And since it must be Catholic, it must elevate and educate those present in their Catholic identity. Everything Catholic is, in a way, educational, after all. It all prepares us for the reality of the encounter with God.
I don’t think that giving prospective users of a church building complete freedom of choice will achieve that. It’s not a priest or Catholic community’s duty, either, to allow anything that merely feels good. But that is a risk that this proposal presents.
Ever since the announcement of the Year of Faith, which starts in October, the Dutch dioceses and bishops have been planning and organising a number of events to mark the occasion. Here follows a short list, sorted by date, of events and announcements concerning the Year of Faith:
3 July: The Diocese of Breda publishes a special diocesan magazine about the Second Vatican Council, including an informative poster (front page at right).
4 July: The Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam will offer several courses in the vein of the Year of Faith throughout 2012 and 2013. Courses include ‘What is faith?’, ‘the Second Vatican Council’, ‘Christian art’, ‘Theology of spirituality’ and and an impulse day on the missionary Church.
5 July: The Dioceses of Rotterdam and Breda announce a joint magazine on the new evangelisation. Publication will be in the summer in Breda and around Christmas in Rotterdam.
18 July: The Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch present its two-year course ‘Growing in faith’ in the light of the Year of Faith, as a means to rediscover the joy of the faith.
19 July: The Archdiocese of Utrecht sends the informative poster about the Second Vatican Council, that was created by the Diocese of Breda, to all her priests, deacons and pastoral workers. In his accompanying letter, Cardinal Eijk writes, “I hope that you, also in your own parish, will be willing to give form to the Year of Faith in a suitable way.”
September, October, November: The diocesan magazine of Haarlem-Amsterdam will devote issues to the Year of Faith.
11 October: The Diocese of Breda opens the Year of Faith with a pontifical High Mass offered by Bishop Liesen. The Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam will do likewise at the Shrine of Our Lady of Need in Heiloo. Clergy and pastoral workers are afterwards invited to attend a lecture on faith in postmodern times.
12 October: The Dutch Bishops’ Conference organises a symposium on the Second Vatican Council, focussing on the four Apostolic Constitutions, in Utrecht. Clergy and pastoral workers throughout the country are invited. Preceding the symposium is a pontifical High Mass, and a Vespers celebration will close the day.
14 October: The Year of Faith will be opened in the Diocese of Roermond with a pontifical High Mass.
12 April: A study day on the Second Vatican Council will be held at the Tiltenberg in the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam. Auxiliary Bishop Jan Hendriks will contribute.
While this list is far from complete (much may be added in the coming months), one thing is striking: much is aimed at priests, deacons and pastoral workers. Events for lay faithful, while present, are much less in evidence. This may point at two things: firstly, that clergy and pastoral workers are expected to communicate the content to the faithful in the pews, and secondly, that it is the clergy and the pastoral workers who need the Year of Faith just as much, if not more, as we lay faithful do.
And although many more events may (and should) be organised for and by Joe Faithful, this last option may not be that far-fetched…
In the weeks around Pentecost there will once again be ordinations of new priests and one deacon in several dioceses in the Netherlands. This year’s tally stands at 10 for three dioceses and two religious congregations. All but one will be ordained in 2 June. The exception is Bart Beckers (47), who will be ordained for the Society of Jesus by Bishop Jan van Burgsteden, emeritus auxiliary, in the church of St. Francis Xavier in Amsterdam, the first time that church sees a priestly ordination.
In that same Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, on 2 June, Bishop Jos Punt will ordain Deacons Peter Piets (44) and Jim Schilder (55), who will be diocesan priests, and Theo van Adrichem (57), who will be a transitional deacon for the Franciscans.
In the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch, Bishop Antoon Hurkmans will ordain Deacons Patrick Kuis (27) and Geoffrey de Jong (31).
In the Diocese of Roermond, Bishop Frans Wiertz will ordain Deacons Rick Blom (30), George Dölle (52), Jan Geilen (54) and Patrick Zuidinga (40).
All ordinations, except that of Bart Beckers, will take place in the cathedrals of the respective dioceses. God willing, I’ll be at the ordinations in ‘s Hertogenbosch. Expect some photos here afterwards.
Photo credit: IKON
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.