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Catholic News Service has two video interviews out today, one with Cardinal Kasper, the other with Cardinal Burke. These two opponents in the debate about Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics could not be more different in their thoughts about this, although both are united in emphasising that the upcoming Synod will be about so much more than this single question. On the other hand, Cardinal Kasper’s eagerness to grant interview after interview about it does seem to indicate that he thinks it is a very important topic indeed.

First, let’s listen to Cardinal Kasper:

Some thoughts: It is hard to get to the bottom of the cardinal’s argument here. Everything he says is nice and understanding, the sort of things we want to hear when we’re in a crisis of whatever sort. What strikes me is that the cardinal only speaks about the second marriage. What about the first? Was that not a loving one, where there no children there, did both spouses not have the intention to make it last? We know that, for some reason, it failed, so in the end it did not last. We know that in hindsight. How can we than say, beforehand, that the same will not be true for a second marriage? We hope it will last, that there won’t be any storms leading to a shipwreck, but we can’t know that.

A sacramental marriage can’t be broken. It can be, after due consideration by competent authorities, judged to have been invalid, after which there is no obstacle to enter into a proper valid marriage. But if the marriage has been valid, it can’t suddenly become invalid. What God has joined, let no man break asunder, after all. Sacraments are the bonds God forges with people and between people, which people freely accept (a sacrament, a marriage, is not valid when someone has been coerced into it).

Cardinal Kasper is right, though, when he says that we need to be careful in our language. Accusing a couple of adultery will probably do more bad than good. After all, the Church wants to help, and that’s impossible when you immediately accuse people, even if that accusation is correct according to the letter of the law.

Cardinal Burke then:

This a very factual approach. A true one, but very factual, and people who are divorced and remarried need much more than that. This is what the Synod is about: not about changing teaching, but about improving the pastoral approach to people, making the help and care of the Church be so much more effective and comforting.

Cardinal Burke also mentions the confusion that the whole debate has apparently caused for many people. People have the duty to be critical about what they read and hear, but the Church has a duty to be crystal clear about her teaching and the whys and wherefores of it.

The Synod will undoubtedly be discussing the proposals and the criticism against them. I dont expect, as Cardinal Burke hopes, that it will be settled so easily, but in the end, the focus will be much more on the pastoral care for divorced and remarried couples and not on adapting the teachings of the Church to suit the perceived needs of the times.

And that is, in the end, a far more interesting discussion: how can the Church, all the faithful, forever grow in living, sharing and communicating the Gospel?

The Dutch bishops have not yet spoken much in public about the upcoming Synod, but today Bishop Rob Mutsaerts, auxiliary of ‘s Hertogenbosch, does. And he makes a point that has been emphasised before by both Cardinal Kasper and Cardinal Burke: the Synod is not about divorce, remarriage and admission to the Eucharist. The question is a bigger one, as Bishop Mutsaerts explains:

Bisschop Rob Mutsaerts“With the extraordinary Synod of the Family which opens on 5 October, Pope Francis mostly aims for a greater appreciation of the Christian marriage as a sacrament. It is clear that in today’s culture the Biblical vision on marriage and family is considered to be virtually unattainable, and is seen more as a burden than as good news. Perhaps that is the reason for Pope Francis to have scheduled the beatification of Paul VI at the end of the Synod, as a closing statement.

Paul VI was a staunch defender of Christian marriage. His famed and infamous encyclical Humanae Vitae, however, achieved the opposite according to public opinion. The Biblical ideal was almost completely forgotten. It is to be hoped that October’s  Synod will not result in a repetition of Humanae Vitae. Expectations, after all, are high. Some fervently hope that the Pope will change the Church’s teaching about divorced and remarried people; others fear he will. That would result in a repetition of Humanae Vitae. And that is exactly what Pope Francis is afraid of: “I have not been happy that so many people – even church people, priests – have said: “Ah, the Synod will be about giving communion to the divorced”, and went straight to that point”, the Pope told reporters on the return flight from Israel.

The questions is much broader. The family is in crisis. Young people rarely choose marriage. They choose others ways of living together. The family is in crisis because marriage is in crisis, according to the firm opinion of Francis.

I hope that the Pope will get the Synod he has in mind, and not the Synod which is mainly concerned with the single question of divorced and remarried faithful. That is certainly a genuine problem, but a far more complex problem lies at its root: few understand marriage as a Christian vocation, strengthened by sacramental mercy. Not without reason did the Pope give  it “The pastoral challenges for the family in the context of evangelisation” as title, and he placed it as such emphatically within the context of evangelisation. Evangelisation is without meaning if we consider it without the Gospel. The words of Jesus to both the Samaritan woman and the woman caught in adultery was hard to accept for those who heard it then and those who hear it now. Don’t forget that the Apostles thought that Jesus’ teachings about marriage were so difficult that it would be better not to marry. If the Synod is true to the Gospel – can she be otherwise? – she can expect the same response, and it will be her duty to inspire confidence that the Christian marriage is still recommendable.

Pope Francis is keen to emphasise that Christian marriage is a sacrament. Much of the confusion surrounding marriage and divorce arises when we lose sight of the fact that marriage is a sacrament. Marriage is not indissoluble because two people make a promise for life. The Church can dispense people from their promises. That is een true for the vows of religious. But the Church can’t undo a sacrament. Marriage is indissoluble for the same reason that we have tabernacles: a consecrated host can’t be ‘deconsecrated’, just like Baptism or the ordination of a priest can’t be undone. Even a priest who has ben laicised remains a priest, even though he can’t exercise the office of priest (although he can hear confessions in emergencies). Nobody, no Synod and also no Pope, can undo a valid sacrament. That’s simply how it is. We shouldn’t therefore expect a relaxation of rules regarding divorced and remarried people in regard to their receiving Holy Communion. Those who do expect this will be disappointed from the outset.

Most Catholics are unaware of the sacramental character of their marriage. Marriage, by the way, is the only of the seven sacrament which is not administered by a priest or deacon, but by lay people, by husband and wife when they say yes to each other. This is the sacrament that gives strength and mercy to be able to keep promises. That is what it is about for the Pope.”

kasperCardinal Walter Kasper has come increasingly under fire from fellow cardinals and others in the Church for his comments about marriage, divorce and Communion. While some are concerned by these visible disagreements, and Cardinal Kasper himself having even suggested that his critics are personally attacking him and Pope Francis, this really is simply what Pope Francis has said he wanted: open and free discussion about the topics that the Synod will devote its time to next month. And while I usually don’t want to commit myself to stark distinctions between left and right, orthodox and liberal, in this discussion it really does seem that those who want the Church to change or loosen up her teachings are honestly insulted by those who disagree.

In an interview for Vatican Radio, Cardinal Kasper commented on the situation. I have translated some of his answer which I think are most interesting in this context.

“Of course everyone has the right to publicly state their opinion. Nothing can be brought against that. But I wonder if the entire Synod is not being reduced to a single point. It is about the pastoral challenges in the context of the new evangelisation. That is far broader field. An insider problem is being place at the centre here. What matters is to be able to speak again and discuss the beauty and the Christian understanding of the family, which many today no longer know – it is about far more fundamental problems than simply this one. And secondly: what sort of understanding of the Gospel is this? It is the Good News. One can’t turn it into just a legal codex alone and then say that there can be no discussion about this point anymore. That makes the Synod a joke. Nobody has the right to say in advance what is possible and what is not. The Pope wants an open discussion, and that should be held. Then, in the Synod, to listen quietly to one another, in an atmosphere of prayer, and the in the end make a decision for the good of the faithful. I will not enter into polemics.”

“Without doubt the family is the cell of society and the cell of the life of the Church. In the family, in marriage and family, life and faith come closest together. It is an essential reality of life which has been raised to the glory of a sacrament. In that way it is a very vital and central issue for the Church to stand for marriage and family and offer solutions for the crisis that exists today. It is about these pastoral challenges, which is the theme of the Synod, not a war of doctrine. Of course, pastoral care is impossible without being oriented on the truth. But the truth is not an abstract system, but in the  end it is Jesus Christ in person, and we need to bring the people close to Christ. In that sense the Synod must be oriented on the truth and understand  Tradition as a living and bubbling spring and not as a rigid system.”

“I have posed a question, not simply suggested a solution. And I posed that question in agreement with the Pope. That’s very important for me. I asked, “When a marriage has failed one should do everything to repair it. But when there is no way back, when someone has entered into a new relationship which is, humanly speaking, a happy one, lived in a Christian fashion, when there are children, one can’t give up this new relationship without serious consequence. And we must also see how God offers new chances – and God does. That is His mercy, that He does not let go of anyone of good will. And everyone does what he can in their situation. And I think that this should be pastorally clarified in every individual case, after a period of orientation. That is called the ‘Via poenitentialis’ – but those involved suffer enough already without it. They do not need to perform great acts of penance. But a new orientation is necessary. That should be the sacrament of penance – that is why we have it – and the sacrament of penance also means re-admission to the Eucharist. But as I said, that is not the solution for all cases, presumably for a minority of all people who live in our communities, who suffer from it and have an honest desire for the sacraments, who urgently need the sacraments to deal with their difficult situations.”

In general it is hard to disagree with much of what the cardinal says. He is very right that the entire Synod is indeed being reduced this single topic (and his perceived opponent Cardinal Burke recently said the exact same thing). His words about the importance of family and the Church’s  defense of and communication about it are also very important, as are his concerns for those who are involved in a good, Christian, loving second relationship while their first marriage is still canonically valid. There is a problem there, but  not with the quality of the second relationship.

And that’s were the problem of the discussion lies. Too many people shift the focus to those second relationships and how the mean Church wants to destroy them and the happiness of those involved. That is a clear untruth. The fact remains that a marriage is a sacrament, and therefore something that can’t be broken by human hands (we simply need to listen to Christ’s words: “What God has joined, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:9)). So when a marriage exists (we’re looking at pure existence here, not quality), there can’t be a second marriage next to it. This is, in essence the basis of the argument. All discussion and, indeed, pastoral care needs to be built on it. And at the latter the Synod will look in detail.

Cardinal Kasper’s mistake, in my opinion, is that he sweeps aside this basis when he says, “One can’t turn [the Gospel] into just a legal codex alone and then say that there can be no discussion about this point anymore. That makes the Synod a joke. Nobody has the right to say in advance what is possible and what is not.” There must be discussion, certainly, for the good of the faithful. But there are also parameters, which are set by Christ. If we want to follow Him, we must accept and work within His parameters. The Codex of Canon Law is the result of centuries of understanding these parameters and translating them for a host of situations, places and times. There must always be such development, and in that sense the law can change. But it can not be overwritten, swept aside or corrected as if what was once true no longer is. In the end it reflects the Truth that is its founder, Jesus Christ.

The Synod will certainly look at the law, but not in order to change it. No, it will concern itself with translation and communication. How can the pastoral care that the Church now offers be improved, so that what she asks the faithful is also possible for them to achieve. In a recent interview Cardinal Burke said, “It simply makes no sense to talk about mercy which doesn’t respect truth. How can that be merciful?” He’s right. Truth and mercy are not separate. How is it merciful to encourage someone to move further away from the truth that he or she wants to follow? And how are we true to what Christ’s asks of us if we show false mercy?

synod of bishopsYesterday the Holy See published the list of participants in the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family. Of course, there are the usual suspects: the heads of the Roman Curia departments, the standing members of the Synod and the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences, with the latter being default participants in an Extraordinary General Synod, which this one is. Pope Francis has had a personal touch in the selection of several participants; noteable among those are Cardinal Kasper, to all appearances a theologian much appreciated by the Holy Father, but also the vast majority of cardinals he created in his first consistory of last February.

A breakdown per country also shows Pope Francis’ fairly strong focus on both the southern half of the globe and the Middle East. When looking at the members personally appointed by the Pope, as well as the lay and professional participants and auditors, we see that, while 35 participants come from Europe (19 of whom are based in Rome or other parts of Italy), 15 participants come from Asia (5 of them from the Middle East), 12 from Central and South America, 9 from Africa, 4 from Oceania and 4 from North America. Add to those the bishops’ conference presidents and not least the fact that two of the three President Delegates come from outside Europe, and you get a distinct non-western picture.

danneelsFrom a local point of view it is interesting to see that no less than four participants come from Belgium, while there is only a single one from the Netherlands and a mere two from Germany. Belgium sends Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard,which was expected as he is the president of the Belgian bishops’ conference, but also his predecessor, Cardinal Godfried Danneels (pictured), as well as Father George Henri Ruyssen of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. Additionaly, Metropolitan Athenagoras, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Belgium, attends as a “fraternal delegate”.

From the Netherlands comes the archbishop of Utrecht, Cardinal Wim Eijk, as the president of our bishops’ conference, and Germany sends Cardinal Reinhard Marx, not a stranger in Rome, and Berlin’s Professor Ute Eberl.

And of course the list has been criticised, not least today by Fr. Thomas Reese. His argument that the presence of heads of the Curia is a bad thing, and an indication that Pope Francis’ intentions of overhauling and streamlining the workings of the Curia is doomed to fail, is plainly ludicrous. He argues that the prefects and presidents of the Curia are merely staff members and not policy makers, and should therefore be merely attending, not speaking or voting in the Synod, which is an extreme oversimplification. By that reasoning the presidents of the bishops’ conferences should not be there as participants either. The members of the Roman Curia are the closest collaborators of the Pope. They meet with him on a weekly basis and he is generally kept up to date on whatever is going on in the various department. But the Pope is one man, so the prefects and presidents not only have the leeway to make their own decisions, that is also their mandate. They are also not random clerics appointed on a whim, but experienced in their own field of work. They are far more than staff. Their experience, knowledge and mandate are enough to give them not only the right and duty to attend the Synod, but also to contribute and decide. Cricitism like that of Fr. Reese seems mostly motivated by a deeply ingrained fear and mistrust of the Curia, which has created an artifical opposition between individual faithful and the institutional Church.

Anyway, the Synod is still a couple of weeks away. Let’s give it the chance it deserves and not let it die a quiet death once the delegates have returned home.

Below is the full list of participants, as published yesterday:

PRESIDENT

  • Pope Francis

GENERAL SECRETARY

  • Lorenzo Cardinal Baldiserri

PRESIDENT DELEGATES

  • André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, France
  • Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, Philippines
  • Raymunda Damasceno Cardinal Assis, Archbishop of Aparecida, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Brazil

RELATOR GENERAL

  • Péter Cardinal Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Hungary, President of the Concilium Conferentiarum Episcoporum Europae (CCEE).

SPECIAL SECRETARY

  • Archbishop Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy

PRESIDENT OF THE COMMISSION FOR THE MESSAGE

  • Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture

VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COMMISSION FOR THE MESSAGE

  • Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, Rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina

SYNOD FATHERS FROM THE ORIENTAL CHURCHES

  • Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts, President of the Synod of the Catholic Coptic Church
  • Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch of the Greek-Melkites, President of the Synod the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church
  • Patrirach Ignace Youssif III Younan, Patrirach of Antioch of the Syrians, President of the Syriac Catholic Church
  • Patriarch Béchara Boutros Cardinal Raï, Patrirach of Antioch of the Maronites, President of the Synod of the Maronite Church
  • Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, President of the Synod of the Chaldean Church
  • Patriarch Nersos Bedros XIX  Tarmouni, Patrirach of Cilicia of the Armenians, President of the Synod of the Armenian Catholic Church
  • Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, President of the Synod of the Ukrainian Catholic Church
  • Major Archbishop George Cardinal Alencherry, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, President of the Syro-Malabar Church
  • Major Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Cardinal Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum, President of the Synod of the Syro-Malankarese Church
  • Major Archbishop Lucian Cardinal Muresan, Major Archbishop of Făgăras şi Alba Iulia, President of the Synod of the Romanian Church
  • Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Abeba of the Ethiopics, President of the Council of the Ethiopian Church, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia and Eritrea
  • Archbishop William Charles Skurla, Archbishop of Pittsburgh of the Ruthenians, President of the Council of the Ruthenian Church in the United States of America
  • Archbishop Ján Babjak, Archbishop of Presov of the Slovaks, President of the Council of the Slovak Church

PRESIDENT OF THE BISHOPS’ CONFERENCES

  • Bishop Benoît Comlan Messan Alowonou, Bishop of Kpalimé, Togo
  • Bishop Oscar Omar Aparicio Céspedes, Military Ordinary of Bolivia
  • Archbishop José María Arancedo, Archbishop of Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz, Argentina
  • Bishop Anders Arborelius, Bishop of Stockholm, Sweden
  • Raymundo Damasceno Cardinal Assis, Archbishop of Aparecido, Brazil (see also above)
  • Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genova, Italy
  • Bishop Gervaise Banshimiyubusa, Bishop of Ngozi, Burundi
  • Bishop Michael Dixon Bhasera, Bishop of Masvingo, Zimbabwe
  • Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, Archbishop of Valladolid, Spain
  • Bishop Anthony Fallah Borwah, Bishop of Gbarnga, Liberia
  • Bishop Jean-Claude Bouchard, Bishop of Pala, Chad
  • Josip Cardinal Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb, Croatia
  • Archbishop Stephen Brislin, Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Bishop Markus Büchel, Bishop of Sankt Gallen, Switzerland
  • Archbishop Paul Bùi Van Doc, Archbishop of Thành-Phô Hô Chí Minh, Vietnam
  • Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, Archbishop of Tunja, Colombia
  • Archbishop Ignatius Chama, Archbishop of Kasama, Zambia
  • Archbishop Louis Chamniern Santisukniran, Archbishop of Thare and Nonseng, Thailand
  • Archbishop Joseph Coutts, Archbishop of Karachi, Pakistan
  • Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario, Archbishop of Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Archbishop John Atcherley Dew, Archbishop of Wellington, New Zealand
  • Bishop Nicolas Djomo Lola, Bishop of Tshumbe, Congo-Kinshasa
  • Bishop Basílio do Nascimento, Bishop of Baucau, Timor-Leste
  • Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, Archbishop of Gatineau, Canada
  • Willem Jacobus Cardinal Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Péter Cardinal Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary (see also above)
  • Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas, Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador
  • Ricardo Cardinal Ezzati Andrello, Archbishop of Santiago, Chile
  • Bishop Emmanuel Félémou, Bishop of Kankan, Guinea
  • Bishop Oscar Gerardo Fernández Guillén, Bishop of Puntarenas, Costa Rica
  • Archbishop Ruggero Franceschini, Archbishop of Izmir, Turkey
  • Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, Archbishop of Poznan, Poland
  • Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo García Ibáñez, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
  • Archbishop Zef Gashi, Archbishop of Bar, Montenegro
  • Bishop Catalino Claudio Giménez Medina, Bishop of Caacupé, Paraguay
  • Bishop Andrej Glavan, Bishop of Novo Mesto, Slovenia
  • Archbishop Roberto Octavio González Nieves, Archbishop of San Juan de Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico
  • Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, India
  • Archbishop Jan Graubner, Archbishop of Olomouc, Czech Republic
  • Bishop Mario Grech, Bishop of Gozo, Malta
  • Archbishop John Ha Tiong Hock, Archbishop of Kuching, Malaysia
  • Archbishop Denis James Hart, Archbishop of Melbourne, Australia
  • Bishop Eugène Cyrille Houndékon, Bishop of Abomey, Benin
  • Archbishop John Hung Shan-Chuan, Archbishop of Taipei, Taiwan
  • Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria
  • Bishop Peter Kang U-Il, Bishop of Cheju, South Korea
  • Archbishop Samuel Kleda, Archbishop of Douala, Cameroon
  • Bishop Franjo Komarica, Bishop of Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Archbisop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, Archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev, Belarus
  • Bishop Patrick Daniel Koroma, Bishop of Kenema, Sierra Leone
  • Archbishop Joseph Edward Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville, United States of America
  • Archbishop Vincent Landèl, Archbishop of Rabat, Morocco
  • Chibly Cardinal Langlois, Bishop of Les Cayes, Haiti
  • Bishop Mathieu Madega Lebouakehan, Bishop of Mouila, Gabon
  • Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium
  • Archbishop Gerard Tlali Lerotholi, Archbishop of Maseru, Lesotho
  • Bishop Felix Lian Khen Thang, Bishop of Kalay, Myanmar
  • Patriarch José Macário do Nascimento Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon, Portugal
  • Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi, Bishop of Tonga, Tonga
  • Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, Vicar Apostolic of Paksé, Laos
  • Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, Ireland
  • Reinhard Cardinal Marx, Archbishop of München und Freising, Germany
  • Archbishop Angelo Massafra, Archbishop of Shkodrë-Pult, Albania
  • Bishop Juan Matogo Oyana, Bishop of Bata, Equatorial Guinea
  • Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi, Arcbishop of Lubango, Angola
  • Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege, Bishop of Kabgayi, Rwanda
  • Archbishop Thomas Meram, Archbishop of Urmya, Iran
  • Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, Archbishop of Lviv, Ukraine
  • Bishop Lúcio Andrice Muandula, Bishop of Xai-Xai, Mozambique
  • Archbishop Liborius Ndumbukuti Nashenda, Archbishop of Windhoek, Namibia
  • Bishop Benjamin Ndiaye, Bishop of Kaolack, Senegal
  • Bishop Tarcisius J.M. Ngalalekumtwa, Bishop of Iringa, Tanzania
  • Vincent Gerard Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, United Kingdom
  • John Cardinal Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi, Kenya
  • Bishop Rimantas Norvila, Bishop of Vilkaviskis, Lithuania
  • Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, Central African Republic
  • Archbishop John Baptist Odama, Archbishop of Gulu, Uganda
  • Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada, Archbishop of Tokyo, Japan
  • Bishop Arnold Orowae, Bishop of Wabag, Papua New Guinea
  • Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu, Bishop of Konongo-Mampong, Ghana
  • Archbishop Paul Yembuado Ouédraogo, Archbishop of Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso
  • Archbishop Diego R. Padrón Sánchez, Archbishop of Cumaná, Venezuela
  • Bishop Franghískos Papamanólis, Bishop of Syros and Santorini, Greece
  • Albert Malcolm Ranjith Cardinal Patabendige Don, Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Bishop Gregorio Nicanor Peña Rodríguez, Bishop of Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia en Higüey, Dominican Republic
  • Archbishop Tomasz Peta, Archbishop of Mary Most Holy in Astana, Kazakhstan
  • Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, Archbishop of Mother of God at Moscow, Russia
  • Bishop Maurice Piat, Bishop of Port-Louis, Seychelles
  • Archbishop Patrick Christopher Pinder, Archbishop of Nassau, Bahamas
  • Archbishop Salvador Piñeiro García-Calderón, Archbishop of Ayacucho, Peru
  • Archbishop Georges Pontier, Archbishop of Marseille, France
  • Bishop Louis Portella Mbuyu, Bishop of Kinkala, Congo-Brazzaville
  • Bishop Christo Proykov, Apostolic Exarch of Sofia of the Bulgarians, Bulgaria
  • Francisco Cardinal Robles Ortega, Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico
  • Archbishop Ioan Robu, Archbishop of Bucharest, Romania
  • Óscar Andrés Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras
  • Bishop Sócrates René Sándigo Jirón, Bishop of Juigalpa, Nicaragua
  • Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Wien, Austria
  • Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Abeba of the Ethiopics, Ethiopia (see also above)
  • Archbishop Zbignev Stankevics, Archbishop of Riga, Latvia
  • Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, Archbishop of Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, Archbishop of Glasgow, United Kingdom
  • Bishop Jean-Baptiste Tiama, Bishop of Sikasso, Mali
  • Archbishop Alexis Touabli Youlo, Archbishop of Agboville, Côte d’Ivoire
  • Archbishop Fausto Gabriel Trávez Trávez, Archbishop of Quito, Ecuador
  • Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana, Archbishop of Taomasina, Madagascar
  • Patriarch Fouad Twal, Patriarch of Jerusalem
  • Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, Archbishop of Panamá, Panama
  • Bishop Rodolfo Valenzuela Núñez, Bishop of Vera Paz, Guatemala
  • Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, Philippines
  • Bishop Rodolfo Pedro Wirz Kraemer, Bishop of Maldonado-Punta del Este, Uruguay
  • Gabriel Cardinal Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum, Sudan
  • Bishop Joseph Mukasa Zuza, Bishop of Mzuzu, Malawi
  • Archbishop Stanislav Zvolenský, Archbishop of Bratislava, Slovakia

ELECTED BY THE UNION OF SUPERIORS GENERAL

  • Father Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, Superior General of the Society of Jesus
  • Father Mauro Jöhri, Minister General of the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor
  • Father Mario Alegani, Superior General of the Congregation of Saint Joseph

HEADS OF THE DEPARTMENTS OF THE ROMAN CURIA

  • Pietro Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State
  • Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • Leonardo Cardinal Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
  • Angelo Cardinal Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
  • Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
  • Fernando Cardinal Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples
  • Beniamino Cardinal Stella, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy
  • João Cardinal Bráz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  • Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education
  • Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, Major Penitentiary
  • Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
  • Stanislaw Cardinal Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
  • Kurt Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  • Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family
  • Peter Kodwo Appiah Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
  • Robert Cardinal Sarah, President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”
  • Antonio Maria Cardinal Vegliò, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
  • Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers
  • Francesco Cardinal Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
  • Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
  • Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture (see also above)
  • Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications
  • Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation
  • Domenico Cardinal Calcagno, President of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Versaldi, President of the Prefecture of the Economic Affairs of the Holy See

MEMBERS OF THE ORDINARY COUNCIL

  • Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, United States of America
  • Péter Cardinal Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary (see also above)
  • Archbishop Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy (see also above)
  • Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, India (see also above)
  • Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa, Congo-Kinshasa
  • Wilfrid Fox Cardinal Napier, Archbishop of Durban, South Africa
  • George Cardinal Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy
  • Odilo Pedro Cardinal Scherer, Archbishop of São Paulo, Brazil
  • Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Wien, Austria (see above)
  • Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, Ukraine (see also above)
  • Bishop Santiago Jaime Silva Retamalas, Auxiliary Bishop of Valparaíso, Chile, Secretary General of the Episcopal Council of Latin America (CELAM)
  • Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, Philippines (see also above)
  • Donald William Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, United States of America
  • Peter Kodwo Appiah Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (see also above)
  • Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation (see also above)

MEMBERS APPOINTED BY THE POPE

  • Angelo Cardinal Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals
  • Godfried Cardinal Danneels, Archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium
  • Walter Cardinal Kasper, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  • Angelo Cardinal Scola, Archbishop of Milan, Italy
  • Carlo Cardinal Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy
  • Lluís Cardinal Martínez Sistach, Archbishop of Barcelona, Spain
  • André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, France (see also above)
  • Jonh Cardinal Tong Hon, Bishop of Hong Kong, China
  • Orani João Cardinal Tempesta, Archbishop of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Adrew Cardinal Yeom Soo-jung, Archbishop of Seoul, South Korea
  • Philippe Nakellentuba Cardinal Ouédraogo, Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
  • Fernando Cardinal Sebastián Aguilar, Archbishop emeritus of Pamplona y Tudela, Spain
  • Elio Cardinal Sgreccia, President emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Bertello, President of the Governorate of the Vatican City State
  • Archbishop Giovanni Tonucci, Archbishop of Loreto, Italy
  • Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli, Archbishop Anciona-Osimo, Italy
  • Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop of Tlalnepatla, Mexico, President of the Episcopal Council of Latin America (CELAM)
  • Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto, Archbishop of Delhi, India
  • Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, Rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina (see also above)
  • Bishop Alonso Gerardo Garza Treviño, Bishop of Piedras Negras, Mexico
  • Bishop Edgard Amine Madi, Bishop of Nossa Senhora do Líbano em São Paulo of the Maronites, Brazil
  • Bishop Enrico Solmi, Bishop of Parma, Italy, President of the Commission for Life and Family in the Italian Bishops’ Conference
  • Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, Dean of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota
  • Father Francois-Xavier Dumortier, Rector Magnificus of the Pontifical University Gregoriana
  • Father Antonio Spadaro, Editor of the magazine “La Civiltà Cattolica”
  • Father Manuel Jesús Arroba Conde, Professor of Canon Law at the Pontifical Lateran University

UNDERSECRETARY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS

  • Bishop Fabio Fabene

LIST OF OTHER PARTICIPANTS ACCORDING TO THEIR TITLES

  • Fr. Tony Anatrella, psycho-analist. Specialist in social psychiatry. Consultor to the Pontifical Councils for the Family and for Health Care Workers. France.
  • Fr. Gérard Berliet, professor of Sacred Scripture at the provincial seminary in Lyon. Head of pastoral care for divorced and remarried faithful in the Archdiocese of Lyon, France.
  • Fr. Bruno Esposito, professor of Canon Law at the Pontifical University St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome.
  • Fr. Alfonso Fernández Benito, professor of Moral Theology and the Sacrament of Marriage at the Hugher Institute of Theological Studies “San Ildefonso”, director of the Institute for Religious Sciences Santa Maria di Toledo, Spain.
  • Fr. Arul Raj Gali, National Director of “Holy Cross Family Ministries in India”.
  • Dr. Jeffrey Goh, professor of Systematic Theology at the archdiocesan seminary and judge of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Kuching, Malaysia.
  • Fr. Maurizio Gronchi, professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical University Urbaniana in Rome, consultor for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
  • Dr. Rodrigo Guerra López, general director of the Centre for Advanced Social Research, Mexico.
  • Dr. Jocelyne Khoueiry, member of the Episcopal Commission for the Family of the APECL, Lebanon.
  • Dr. Helen Kyung Soo Kwon, member of the executive committee of the “Helen Kim Scholarship Foundation at Ewha Womans University”, South Korea.
  • Fr. Sabatino Majorano, professor of Systemic Moral Theology at the Alphonsianum, Italy.
  • Mr. Christopher Laurence Meney, director of the Center for life, marriage and family of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia.
  • Professor Giuseppina de Simone, extraordinary professor of philosophy at the Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in Naples. Married to ∨
  • Professor Francesco Miano, professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, president of Catholic Action, Italy. Married to ^
  • Professor Carmen Peña García, director of Especialista en Causas Matrimoniales, professor at the Faculty of Canon Law of the Comillas Pontifical University, Defender of the Bond and Promotor of Justice at the Metropolitan Court of Madrid, Spain.
  • Fr. George Henri Ruyssen, professor at the Faculty of Oriental Canon Law of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. Belgium.

AUDITORS

  •  Mr. Arturo and Mrs. Hermelinda As Zamberline, officials of the ‘Equipe Notre Dame” in Brazil.
  • Mr. Riyadh Albeer Naoom Azzo and Mrs. Sanaa Namir Ibrahim Habeeb, witnessing of Christian family life in a Muslim environment, Iraq.
  • Mr. León Botolo and Mrs. Marie Valentine Kisanga Sosawe, founders of Communauté Famille Chrétienne, Congo-Kinshasa.
  • Professor Zelmira María Bottini de Rey, director of the Institute for Couples and Family of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, president of the Latin-America Network of the Institute of the Family of the Catholic Universities, Argentina.
  • Mr. George Campos, director of Couples for Christ, Philippines. Married to ∨
  • Mrs. Cynthia Campos, member of Couples for Christ, Philippines. Married to ^
  • Mr. Inácio Amândio Chaúque, educator of young couples, Mozambique.
  • Mrs. Joan Clements, director of the executive committe of the World Organisation Ovulation Method Billings (WOOMB), Australia.
  • Mr. Stephen and Mrs. Sandra Conway, regional officers for Africa of Retrouvailles, South Africa.
  • Dr. Ute Eberl, responsible for pastoral care for marriage and family in the Archdiocese of Berlin, Germany.
  • Mrs. Pilar Escudero de Jensen, member of the vicariate general of the Archdiocese of Santiago, Chile, member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, member of the Family Institute of Schönstatt, Chile. Married to ∨
  • Mr. Luis Jensen Acuña, member of the Bioethics Centre of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, member of the Family Institute of Schönstatt, Chile. Married to ^
  • Dr. Jean Dieudonné Gatsinga and Mrs. Emerthe Gatsinga Tumuhayimpundu, repsonsible for young families of the Focolare movement in Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda.
  • Mr. Jeffrey Heinzen, director of Natural Family Planing of the Diocese of La Crosse, United States of America. Married to ∨
  • Mrs. Alice Heinzen, member of the Natural Family Planning Advisory Board of the Diocese of La Crosse, United States of America. Married to ^
  • Dr. Ilva Myriam Hoyos Castañeda, prosecutor delegate for the defense of the rights of children, youth and family, Colombia.
  • Mr. Sélim and Mrs. Rita Khoury, leading the Office for Pastoral Care for Families of the Patriarchal Curia of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon.
  • Mrs. María Lacalle Noriega, director of the Centre of the Study of the family (Inst. Investigaciones económicas y sociales Francisco de Vitoria), secretary general of the Sociedad Española de bioética y biojurídica, Spain.
  • Fr. Cajetan Menezes, director of the Family Apostolate in Bombay, India.
  • Mr. Giuseppe Petracca Ciavarella and Mrs. Lucia Miglionico, medical doctors, members of the National Council for Pastoral Care of Families, Italy.
  • Sister Margaret Muldoon, Superior General of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux, Ireland.
  • Mr. Francisco Padilla, officer of the Couples for Christ Foundation for family and life movement, Philippines.
  • Mr. Algirdas Petronis, vice president of the International Federation of Catholic Families, director of the Centre for the Family of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, Lithuania.
  • Mr. Romano and Mrs. Mavis Pirola, directors of the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council.
  • Mr Olivier and Mrs. Xristilla Roussy, responsible for the apostolic branch of Amour et Vérité, France.
  • Mr. Steve and Mrs. Claudia Schultz, members of the International Catholic Engaged Encounter, United States of America.
  • Mrs. Michèle Taupin, preident of the movement Espérance et Vie, France.
  • Mrs. Jeannette Touré, National president of the Association of Catholic Women in Côte d’Ivoire.

FRATERNAL DELEGATES

  •  Archbishop Athenagoras, Metropolitan of Belgium. Ecumenic patriarchate.
  • Archbishop Hilarion, President of Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow.
  • Metropolitan Bishoy, Metropolitan of Damietta, Kafr Elsheikh and Elbarari, Egypt. Coptic Orthodox Church.
  • Mar Yostinos, Archbishop of Zhale and Bekau, Lebanon. Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.
  • Bishop Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, England. Anglican Communion.
  • Dr. Ndanganeni Petrus Phaswaha, Bishop-President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa. World Lutheran Federation.
  • Dr. Benebo Fubara-Manuel, President of the Nigeria Communion of Reformed Churches. World Communion of Reformed Churches.
  • Dr. Valérie Duval-Poujol, professor of Biblical Exegesis at the Catholic Institute of Paris, France. World Baptist Alliance.

sacred liturgy bookI was very happy to find this in the mail today: Sacred Liturgy: The Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church, edited by Dom Alcuin Reid. It is the product of last year’s Sacra Liturgia conference, which I wrote about a few times.

It is quite the hefty tome, clocking in at 446 pages. The book collects the contributions from a great variety of authors; Bishop Marc Aillet, Walter Cardinal Brandmüller, Raymond Cardinal Burke, Bishop Dominique Rey and Archbishop Alexander Sample, to name but a few. The topics are equally varied, covering a wide range of the liturgical landscape. Here too, a random selection to give some idea: liturgical music, new evangelisation, liturgy and monastic life, sacred architecture, the role of the bishop in liturgy, catechesis and formation. There are also the homilies given over the course of the conference, one by Cardinal Cañizares Llovera and the other by Cardinal Brandmüller.

I have not always found it easy to find such theological resources in my neck of the woods, so I consider this book a welcome resource for my own personal theological education, small and interrupted by necessary daily commitments as it may be. And as such, it may also have its influence on the blog.

Several months ago, Raymond Cardinal Burke gave an interview in which he was critical about Pope Francis. He made some assumptions there about thew wisdom of the Pope’s giving so many interviews, assumptions and comments which I think were ill-advised, and more than a few people connected this to the perceived ‘demotion’ of the cardinal when Pope Francis re-shuffled some departments of the Curia and some of their members.

Cardinal-BurkeA few days ago, Cardinal Burke had an article published in L’Osservatore Romano in which he sheds a light on the priorities of Pope Francis. This article goes a long way in repairing the damage done by the earlier interview and is an interesting study on how the controversial topics of abortion, euthanasia and marriage fit in Pope Francis’ approach of pastoral love.

“It is not that the Holy Father is not clear in his opposition to abortion and euthanasia, or in his support of marriage as the indissoluble, faithful and procreative union of one man and one woman. Rather he concentrates his attention on inviting all to nurture an intimate relationship, indeed communion, with Christ, within which the non-negotiable truths, inscribed by God upon every human heart, become ever more evident and are generously embraced. The understanding and living of these truths are, so to speak, the outer manifestation of the inner communion with God the Father in Christ, His only-begotten Son, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.”

It’s a good read which puts the words and actions of Pope Francis in the context of Scripture and on what some of his predecessors have said and done. I translated the article into Dutch here.

Even without digging into the details, I can comfortably say that 2013 has been the strangest, most unexpected, most challenging and most rollercoaster-like year in recent memory. From the historical retirement of Pope Benedict XVI to the long-awaited ad limina visit of the Dutch bishops, a Catholic blogger with his eye on current Church events had plenty of things to write about. A look back on the past twelve months.

January

“Dear fathers, dear mothers, let God be great amid your family, so that your children can grow up in the security of His love.”

Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer, shortly after his consecration as Bishop of Regensburg, 26 January 2013

gänsweinJanuary was a month of ongoing affairs, although some new issues also appeared. One example of this was the question of the ad limina visit of the Dutch bishops. Otherwise, things went on as usual as Pope Benedict XVI continued much as he had done in earlier years: he consecrated Archbishop Gänswein (pictured), baptised children, created a diocese for the Ukrainian Catholics in western Europe, performed some damage control on the issue of marriage, gender and sacraments, released his Message for World Communications Day, and tweeted his support for life. Little did we expect how much that would soon change…

Locally, things were not too much out of the ordinary. In the abuse crisis, Cardinal Simonis was not prosecuted, Bishop van Burgsteden was announced to be offering a Mass in the Extraordinary Form, the bishops made it easier to leave the Church, and Cardinal Eijk spoke on palliative care,

As a blogger, I shared my thoughts about the .catholic domain name, upcoming German bishop retirements, a Protestant leader disregarding ecumenism, baby hatches, and a new and Catholic queen.

February

“…well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant…”

Pope Benedict XVI, 11 February 2013

The year really started on 11 February, with the shock announcement of Pope Benedict XVI that he would retire by the month’s end. So much of what would characterise the rest of 2013 has its roots in that decision and announcement. With it we started to wrap up a pontificate, with a lot of final things. The faithful were certainly loath to see Papa Benedetto go, as both his final general audiences and his last Angelus show. And then that last farewell came, for me the one moment which stands out in this year.

But before all that took place, there were also other developments. Pope Benedict released his Message for Lent and begin his Lenten retreat, this time led by the tweeting Cardinal Ravasi. In Germany, the bishops made some iffy decisions regarding contraception, and in Scotland, Cardinal O’Brien fell from grace.

Locally the Dutch bishops decided to limit their tv appearances (a decision later corrected by Pope Francis), and they also responded to the Pope’s retirement, collectively and individually. There were also some changes to the Eucharistic Prayer, triggered by the sede vacante.

I spoke some thoughts on a  few topics as well, among them the teaching authority of bishops, communication, vacancies in the College of Cardinals, and some more about communication.

March

“Bueno sera.”

Pope Francis, first words to the world after his election, 13 March

Pope-FrancisIn March a new chapter was opened. Whereas Pope Benedict XVI had educated us about the faith, Pope Francis would show us how to put it into practice. The tone was set from that first shy “good evening”. But before all that took place, we had to wait while the cardinal electors met and sketched a profile of the new pontiff. As the conclave opened, all eyes were on a humble chimney, about as humble as the Pope it announced after five ballots.

Of course, there were many reactions to the election of Pope Francis, such as the one by Archbishop Léonard. But live in the Church also went on. Cardinal Dolan reminded us of what really mattered, the Vatican guarded communication to the outside, the second Deetman report on excessive physical abuse in the Church came out, Bishop Jos Punt returned from three weeks living as a hermit in Spain, Pope Francis directed our attention to what it’s all about and he met with his predecessor, and it was also Easter.

April

“Christ is everything for me, the centre of my life, from Baptism to death. He is the personification of God, showing us how to live in intimate union with God, how to literally embody that great and incomprehensible God. Or, as the Gospel of John tells us, “Anyone who has seen Me, has seen the Father”. When you become the Body of Christ together, you experience in a fundamental way that you belong together and support one another.”

Words from Bishop Tiny Muskens, quoted by Bishop Liesen in the eulogy for the late bishop of Breda.

A month of settling into the new papacy and all the impressions that brings. Things returned to normal, and an overview of April is basically a list of events, with no major overarching themes.

muskensThe Dutch Church got a 25th basilica, 300 young Dutch Catholics signed up for the World Youth Days in Rio, the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch plays it hard regarding rebellious priests, Pope Francis established a group of eight cardinals to advice in the reform of the Curia, Bishop Tiny Muskens (pictured) passes away, with Bishop Jan Liesen offering his funeral Mass, a group of Dutch professors published a strange manifesto against the bishops, Archbishop Léonard was attacked and taught us a lesson by his reaction, Pope Francis met with the future King and Queen of the Netherlands, and I wrote my first post on the upcoming Sacra Liturgia conference.

May

“I am very thankful that you have taken the effort to send me some words of support and solidarity after the protest action of the Femen group. Your words have been very comforting for me.”

Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, in a letter sent to those who wrote to him in support after the attack on him by leftwing protesters in April

benedict francisA quiet month which nonetheless closed the the events of the first few months, as the Pope emeritus came home (pictured). In other events, we celebrated the Ascension of the Lord, Michael Voris commented on the state of the Church in the Netherlands, the bishops of Belgium offered a status report of the sexual abuse crisis in their country, Bishop de Korte responded to last month’s professors’ manifesto, The Pope did not perform an exorcism, nine new priests were to be ordained, and Archbishop Léonard sent a gracious letter to all those who supported him after the Femen attack.

In addition to all that, I offered some thoughts on reform proposals from the German bishops, abortion and the right to life, the fact that the Church does not condone violence against homosexuals, and Pope Francis’ comment that Christ redeemed everyone.

June

“He was a bishop with a vision, not conservative in the sense that he wanted to return to the time before the Second Vatican Council. On the contrary, with heart and soul he wanted to be a bishop who stood in and for that council and wanted to put it into practice.”

Bishop Jan Hendriks remembers  Bishop Jo Gijsen, who passed away on 24 June

gijsenAt the start of June the world gathered around the Blessed Sacrament, a new bishop was appointed to Liège, a successful Europe-wide pro-life initiative got underway, auxiliary bishops were appointed to Freiburg im Breisgau, Cologne and Osnabrück, one of the last Dutch missionary bishops (and host to a group of Dutch World Youth Day pilgrims) retires, and Bishop Jo Gijsen (pictured), emeritus of both Roermond and Reykjavík, passes away.

I also made the first Dutch translation (as far as I was able to find) of Pope Benedict XV’s encyclical In Hac Tanta, on St. Boniface, and I wrote about the issue of same-sex marriage from the viewpoints of two seeming opposites.

July

“It is impossible to serve God without going to the human brother, met on the path of our lives. But it is also impossible to substantially love the neighbor without understanding that this is the Son of God himself who first became the neighbour of every man.”

Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, in the homily at the consecration of Bishop Jean-Pierre Delville of Liège, 14 July

cardijnThe summer months saw the stream of blog posts shrink to a trickle, and a mere 10 posts were made in July. Among those things that I did write about were the first encyclical of Pope Francis, the United Nations launching a rather one-sided demand to the Holy See about sexual abuse, the launch of the cause for the beatification of Belgian Cardinal Cardijn (pictured), Dutch pilgrims departing for Rio, the consecration of Bishop Delville of Liège, and a young Dutch woman’s encounter with the Pope.

August

“As John took Mary into his home, you took Bishop Bluyssen into your home. There is of course a great difference between giving someone a space to live and giving someone a home. You have done the latter.”

Bishop Antoon Hurkmans to the sisters of the Mariënburg monastery, 13 August

parolinStill summer, and I visited a foreign cathedral, in Slovenia the effects of Pope Francis’ reforms are first felt, Bishop Johannes Bluyssen passes away, Namur gains  a new basilica, and the Church a new Secretary of State (pictured). Another quiet month, but the things that did happen were sometimes quite momentous. A sign of more to come.

September

“I have decided to proclaim for the  whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of  Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and  throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow  Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to  participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.”

Pope Francis, 1 September

Tebartz-van ElstIn Germany, the biggest story of the year erupted in Limburg (Bishop Tebartz-van Elst pictured), and Cardinal Lajolo was sent to settle things, for now. Pope Francis called for prayer for Syria (and armed interventions were averted). In Osnabrück, Freiburg and Cologne, bishops were consecrated, and Freiburg’s Archbishop Zollitsch retired soon afterwards. The pro-life “One of Us” initiative collected 1 million signatures, and the Dutch bishops appointed a new spokeswoman (who would soon undergo her baptism by fire in the ad limina visit). And then, Pope Francis was interviewed.

October

 “The Eucharist (which refers to the Last Supper of Jesus Christ) is the most important sacrament, in which the faithful celebrate their unity with God and each other.”

Wim Cardinal Eijk, responding to liturgical abuse by an overly creative priest, 7 October

eijkIn this very busy month, the Council of Cardinals got to work, and the first fruits of Pope Francis’ reforms became visible in the Synod of Bishops, which sent a questionnaire to the world’s Catholics at the end of the month. Rumours surfaced that the Dutch bishops would be going on their ad limina visit soon, rumours which would soon be confirmed. One of the most notable efforts to spring up in relation to this was the so-called Pauspetitie. Back home, Cardinal Eijk (pictured) made a stand against excessive liturgical abuse, which revealed how rotten some parts of the Church are. Later that month, the cardinal also wrote a letter to the faithful about church closings. In other news, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications’ Msgr. Paul Tighe spoke at the CNMC in Boston about the Holy See’s work in social media, and a solution was found for the Limburg situation. The Holy See announced a consistory for February, in which Pope Francis will be creating his first class of cardinals.

With the help of Fr. Roderick’s more faithful translation of last month’s papal interview, I drafted an improved English translation. All this before later developments would seriously invalidate the level of accuracy, as the interviewer admitted to not having recorded the interview or taking notes.

November

“Due to the aforementioned discrepancies, the draft text is to be withdrawn and revised, so that no pastoral directions are sanctioned which are in opposition to Church teaching. Because the text has raised questions not only in Germany, but in many parts of the world as well, and has led to uncertainties in a delicate pastoral issue, I felt obliged to inform Pope Francis about it.”

Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, in a letter to the bishops of Germany, 11 November

A bit a weird month, mostly devoted to looking ahead to the upcoming ad limina, but there were also some other topics which needed discussion or correction.

MüllerFirst of all, there was good news as we learned that annual television spectacle The Passion would be visiting my home town in 2014. The Dutch bishops decided on the fastest and most efficient means to deal with the Synod of Bishops’ questionnaire. On 19 November, Bishop Joseph Lescrauwaet passed away. Most attention internationally, however, was for Archbishop Müller’s letter to the German bishops, informing them that their pastoral initiative on marriage and the sacraments needed revising. In Germany, things remained rebellious. On the ad limina visit, Bishop de Korte looked ahead, and I took a closer look at the general report that the bishops published.

Oh, and then there was a little Apostolic Exhortation called Evangelii Gaudium

Of the latter category, things that needed correction or further explanation, we can mention the visit of politician Boris Dittrich to the Holy See, much confusion on Christmas hymns in the liturgy.

December

“Finally, the Pope also asked us a sort of question of conscience. Where do you yourself, as bishops, find the strength, your hope and joy amid all the concerns and problems? The Gospel must always be visible as the Good News of forgiveness, salvation and redemption. He urged us to always quench our thirst from that and communicate it to others. The Church, the Pope indicated, grows from an authentically experienced faith and through honest attraction. She is being sent to awaken and plant faith, hope and love in people.”

Bishop Jos Punt, looking back on the ad limina visit, 14 December

bishops st. peter's  squareAnd so, after nine years, the bishops returned to Rome and we launched into the 2013 ad limina visit. Opening with the audience with Pope Francis, the ad limina was a hopeful occasion, for both bishops and faithful back home. Although a fair few had expected otherwise, the bishops received encouraging scenes to continue on the path they were on, especially regarding how they dealt with the sexual abuse crisis. Very helpful and enjoyable was the daily reporting by various bishops as events unfolded. After returning home, several bishops felt called to write down their experiences once more.

December was also the month of Cologne’s Cardinal Meisner, who looked ahead to his upcoming retirement, spoke frankly about some current affairs and saw Christmas day – and his 80th birthday – marked by desecration.

In other news, Michael Voris put the spotlight on a Dutch bishop, Archbishop Müller clarified what clear minds had logically assumed from the start, Archbishop Zollitsch made some worrisome comments,, the Pope marked his 1st birthday on Twitter and his 77th real birthday, Pope Francis released his Message for the World Day of Peace, Cardinal Koch expressed some concern about papal popularity, Cardinal Burke was demoted (but only in the minds of some) and there was some excitement when a papal visit to the Netherlands was discussed. And it was Christmas.

Who we lost:

deceasedprelates

  • Jozéf Cardinal Glemp, Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere, passed away on 23 January, aged 83
  • Giovanni Cardinal Cheli, Cardinal-Deacon of Santi Cosma e Damiano, passed away on 8 February, aged 94
  • Julien Cardinal Ries, Cardinal-Deacon of Sant’Antonio di Padova a Circonvallazione Appia, passed away on 23 February, aged 92
  • Jean Cardinal Honoré, Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria della Salute a Primavalle, passed away on 28 February, aged 92
  • Bishop Bernard Rieger, auxiliary bishop emeritus of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, passed away on 10 April, aged 90
  • Lorenzo Cardinal Antonetti, Cardinal-Deacon of Sant’Agnese in Agone, passed away on 10 April, aged 90
  • Bishop Reinard Lettmann, bishop emeritus of Münster, passed away on 16 April, aged 80
  • Bishop Martinus Petrus Maria Muskens, bishop emeritus of Breda, passed away on 16 April, aged 77
  • Stanislaw Cardinal Nagy, Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria della Scala, passed away on 5 June, aged 91
  • Bishop Franz Xaver Eder, bishop emeritus of Passau, passed away on 20 June, aged 87
  • Bishop Joannes Baptist Matthijs Gijsen, bishop emeritus of Reykjavík, passed away on 24 June, aged 80
  • Simon Ignatius Cardinal Pimenta, Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria «Regina Mundi» a Torre Spaccata, passed away on 19 July, aged 93
  • Ersilio Cardinal Tonini, Cardinal-Priest of Santissimo Redentore a Valmelaina, passed away on 28 July, aged 99
  • Archbishop Ludwig Averkamp, archbishop emeritus of Hamburg, passed away on 29 July, aged 86
  • Bishop Johannes Willem Maria Bluyssen, bishop emeritus of ‘s Hertogenbosch, passed away on 8 August, aged 87
  • Medardo Joseph Cardinal Mazombwe, Cardinal-Priest of Sant’Emerenziana a Tor Fiorenza, passed away on 29 August, aged 81
  • Bishop Ernst Gutting, auxiliary bishop emeritus Speyer, passed away on 27 September, aged 94
  • Bishop Georg Weinhold, auxiliary bishop emeritus of Dresden-Meiβen, passed away on 10 October, aged 78
  • Domenica Cardinal Bartolucci, Cardinal-Deacon of Santissimi Nomi di Gesù e Maria in Via Lata, passed away on 11 November, aged 96
  • Bishop Joseph Frans Lescrauwaet, auxiliary bishop emeritus of Haarlem, passed away on 19 November, aged 90
  • Bishop Max Georg von Twickel, auxiliary bishop emeritus of Münster, passed away on 28 November, aged 87
  • Ricardo María Cardinal Carles Gordó, Cardinal-Priest of Santa Marie Consolatrice al Tiburtino, passed away on 17 December, aged 86

New appointments and consecrations in the dioceses of northwestern Europe:

  • Bishop Heiner Koch, auxiliary bishop of Köln, was appointed as bishop of Dresden-Meiβen on 18 January and installed on 18 March
  • Fr. Rudolf Voderholzer was consecrated as bishop of Regensburg on 26 January
  • Fr. Jean-Pierre Delville was appointed as bishop of Liège on 31 May and consecrated on 14 July.
  • Bishop Aloys Jousten retired as bishop of Liège on 31 May
  • Fr. Michael Gerber was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Freiburg im Freisgau on 12 June and consecrated on 8 September
  • Fr. Ansgar Puff was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Köln on 14 June and consecrated on 21 September
  • Fr. Johannes Wübbe was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Osnabrück on 18 June and consecrated on 1 September
  • Bishop Werner Radspieler retired as auxiliary bishop of Bamberg on 9 September
  • Archbishop Robert Zollitsch retired as archbishop of Freiburg im Breisgau on 17 September
  • Archbishop Nikola Eterovic was appointed as Apostolic Nuncio to Germany on 21 September; Archbishop Jean-Claude Périsset retired as such on the same day
  • Bishop Rainer Klug retired as auxiliary bishop of Freiburg im Breisgau on 21 November

evangelii gaudiumIn the past year, my blog enjoyed 113,702 visits, some 26,000 more than in 2012. The retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, the following conclave and the election of Pope Francis, the Scalfari interview and the corrected English translation I provided, the letter of Archbishop Müller to the German bishops and the upcoming election of the successor of Cardinal Meisner, Evangelii Gaudium and Cardinal Eijk’s sanction against the Dominican priest who was excessively creative are among the topics and events that drew most readers. A good year. Much gratitude and encouragement to continue merrily onwards into 2014.

May your new year be blessed and joyful!

Christmas is the day on which we reopen our hearts to Christ, to receive Him as He was received more than 2,000 years ago. We find Him also in the people around us, with their questions, curiosity and need for confirmation in and strengthening of their faith.

Hence another round of questions to be answered. I find these questions in the search terms that have lead people to my blog. In some cases their search will have given them an answer, in other cases it won’t. For them, and for other as well, I will try and give short comprehensive answers that may be of help. All questions were asked in the last month.

Will Archbishop Georg Gänswein become a cardinal?

Archbishop-Georg-Ganswein-900x500Archbishop Gänswein is the Prefect of the Papal Household, personal assistant to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and one of the most visible prelates next to the Pope. At general audience and other major events with the Holy Father, he can be seen at his side. Will he be made a cardinal in next February’s consistory? I would expect not. There are a few reasons for this. No Prefect of the Papal Household has been a cardinal since Pietro Gasparri from 1914 to 1918, and he was already a cardinal when appointed to the office. However, the five Prefects between Gasparri and Gänswein were made a cardinal later: Giovanni Tacci Porcelli in 1921, after wrapping up his duties as Prefect of the Holy Apostolic Palaces and before being made Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches; Mario Nasalli Rocca di Corneliano in 1969, also immediately after completing his work as Prefect; the same goes for Jacques Martin in 1988; Dino Monduzzi in 1998; and James Harvey in 2012, when he was made Archpriest of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls. So there is certainly a precedent for Archbishop Gänswein being made a cardinal after being given another position in the Curia or in a diocese somewhere. But will Pope Francis be the one to do it? I have my doubts. I expect that his first consistory may be fairly light on Curial prelates and heavy on diocesan bishops, shepherds in the truest sense. And creating men as cardinals as a form of reward? I don’t see Francis doing that either.

I am a Catholic but have not been to Church in a very long time. How do I get back?

Go. Just go to a Church near you, or further away of you want, and enter. You are always welcome. Christ is there and He will not turn you away. Enter and sit down, open your heart to Christ. Take all the time you need. And if the time is right for you, strike up a conversation. With a volunteer, the sacristan, a Massgoer, the parish priest, even. They can and will welcome you and help you in whatever way you want and need. Don’t think there is a lot you need to do as soon as you walk into the church. God is patient. Once you are ready, the priest can help you take the next steps to return to full communion with Christ and His Church.

Who is Catholic Bishop Lewis Zeigler?

archbishop-zeiglerHe is the Metropolitan Archbishop of Monrovia in Liberia. Archbishop Zeigler is 69 and was appointed as Bishop of Gbarnga in Liberia in 2002. In 2009 he was appointed as Coadjutor Archbishop of Monrovia, ie. auxiliary bishop with right of succession, in 2009. In 2011, he became the archbishop. He has also been the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Liberia since 2005.

Cardinal Burke demoted?

I’ll leave that to Father John Zuhlsdorf to explain and interpret.

Sviatoslav Shevchuk as cardinal?

Archbishop ShevchukThis one is a bit more likely. Major Archbishop Shevchuk is the head of a Church united to Rome, and Pope Francis knows both him and the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Until 2011, Archbishop Shevchuk was auxiliary bishop and apostolic administrator of Santa María del Patrocinio en Buenos Aires, the Ukrainian Catholic jurisdiction in Argentina, with its see in the same city where Pope Francis was archbishop until this year. Pope Francis has shown sympathy to the eastern churches, and Archbishop Shevchuk has lobbied for his church to be elevated to a Patriarchate. His position and Pope Francis’ familiarity and sympathy make him a very likely future cardinal. And at the age of 43 he would be the youngest cardinal by far.

Cardinal-BurkeA cardinal who is the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, a member of the College of Cardinals, a member of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, a member of the Congregation for Clergy, a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, a member of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and President of the Commission for Advocates, is clearly one on the way out. Or so certain media would have us believe.

The cardinal in question is Raymond Leo Burke, and the reason is his removal from the Congregation for Bishops. That congregation is undoubtedly an important one, and Cardinal Burke no longer being a member will certainly have its reasons. But are those reasons the cardinal’s disagreement with Pope Francis on how much emphasis to place on certain pro-life topics? Or is it the Pope’s widely known intention to slim down the Curia?

Cardinal Burke’s recent interview, in which he voiced his careful disagreement with Pope Francis’ statements, was rather unfortunate, in my opinion. I can’t agree with the cardinal’s assessments of what the Pope said or meant. But, that said, a cardinal’s removal or reassignment does not happen in a day’s notice. It will have been planned beforehand, most likely in consultation with Cardinal Ouellet, the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Cardinal Burke himself. The interview, which was published a mere day before the removal can’t be the reason for it.

In short, unlike too many media would have us think, this is really not a demotion for Cardinal Burke, certainly not when he retains the positions I listed above (thanks to Thomas Peters).  John L. Allen, Jr. best describes the changes at the Congregation for Bishops and what they mean here.

“[T]he liturgy is the celebration of the central event of human history, the redemptive sacrifice of Christ. Thus it bears witness to the love with which God loves humanity, to the fact that human life has a meaning and that it is through their vocation that men and women are called to share in the glorious life of the Trinity. Humanity needs this witness.

People need to perceive, through the liturgical celebrations, that the Church is aware of the lordship of God and of dignity of the human being. She has the right to be able to discern, over and above the limitations that will always mark her rites and ceremonies, that Christ “is present in the sacrifice of Mass and in the person of the minister” (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 7).”

- Pope Benedict XVI to a group of French bishops on their ad limina visit,
17 November 2012

sacraliturgia_logoIn the coming weeks I will be writing about the Sacra Liturgia conference that will be held in Rome from 25 to 28 June. The conference “on liturgical formation, celebration and mission” is the brainchild of Bishop Dominique Rey of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon in France and draws its inspiration in part from the teaching and person of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who strongly encouraged Bishop Rey’s initiative.

Why a major conference on the liturgy, and why special attention to it in this blog? Pope Benedict has spoken about it many times, both during his pontificate and as priest, bishop and cardinal. The quote I chose to place at the top is only the most recent I could quickly find, but it does give an indication of the reason. Our faith comes from God; it is His gift to us. In the liturgy, centered around the sacrifice of the Eucharist, God comes very near to us, nearer than we can ever hope to come to Him if left to our own devices. Since God is near to us, we must take care to show that in how we celebrate and participate in the liturgy. And because this is the place where God is tangible for us, the liturgy takes up a central place in our faith and life as Catholics. That means that we can’t take it for granted, but should treat the liturgy as an opportunity to learn and grow, and that is what the conference wants to aid in.

During the conference, various speakers will address a proper selection of liturgy topics. Standing out for me, upon a reading of the list of speakers, are Cardinal Raymond Burke (Liturgical law in the Mission of the Church), Archbishop Alexander Sample (The Bishop: governor, promoter and guardian of liturgical life of the diocese), Monsignor Guido Marini (Ars celebrandi in the Sacred Liturgy), Monsignor Stefan Heid (The Early Christian Altar – Lessons for Today), Father Uwe Michael Lang (Sacred Art and Architecture at the service of the Mission of the Church), Father Paul Gunter (Academic Formation in the Sacred Liturgy), Father Nicola Bux (Liturgical catechesis and the New Evangelisation), Dom Alcuin Reid (Sacrosanctum Concilium and Liturgical Formation) and Mr. Jeffrey Tucker (The Liturgical Apostolate and the Internet), although any choice here is strictly based on the various topic titles. I will be profiling several of the speakers in the coming weeks, with, obviously, a special focus on their thoughts and actions regarding the liturgy.

All the relevant information regarding prices, accommodation and, certainly not least, the speakers and their topics can be found via the link I supplied above. Personally, I would have attended if it was within my means, but I’ll have to make do with a digital presence, via this blog and various social media.

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.

For a personal account about my reasons for becoming and remaining Catholic, go read my story: Why am I Catholic?

Copyright

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Netherlands License.

The above means that I have the right to be recognised as the author of both the original blog posts, as well as any translations I make. Everyone is free to share my content, but with credit in the form of my name or a link to my blog.

Blog and media

Over the years, my blog posts have been picked up by various other blogs, websites and media outlets.

A complete list would be prohibitively long, so I'll limit myself to mentioning The Anchoress, Anton de Wit, Bisdom Haarlem-Amsterdam, The Break/SQPN, Caritas in Veritate, Catholic Culture, The Catholic Herald, EWTN, Fr. Ray Blake's Blog, Fr. Z's Blog, The Hermeneutic of Continuity, Katholiek Gezin, Katholiek.nl, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, New Liturgical Movement, NOS, Protect the Pope, Reformatorisch Dagblad, The Remnant, RKS Ariëns, Rorate Caeli, The Spectator, Vatican Insider, Voorhof and Whispers in the Loggia.

All links to, quotations of and use as source material of my blog posts is greatly appreciated. It's what I blog for: to further awareness and knowledge in a positive critical spirit. Credits are equally liked, of course.

Blog posts have also been used as sources for various Wikipedia articles, among them those on Archbishop Pierre-Marie Carré, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Archbishop Sergio Utleg and Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki.

Latest translations added:

IN PROGRESS

[Dutch] Internationale Theologencommissie - Sensus Fidei in het Leven van de Kerk.

30 June: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Boodschap voor het Katholieke Jongerenfestival.

19 June: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Interview in La Vanguardia.

18 May: [English] Pietro Cardinal Parolin - Homily at the consecration of Archbishop van Megen.

15 May: [English] Ane Hähnig - Interview with Michael Triegel.

3 May: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Boodschap voor de Wereldgebedsdag voor Roepingen 2014.

Like this blog? Think of making a donation

This blog is a voluntary and free effort. I don't get paid for it, and money is never the main motivator for me to write the things I write.

But, since time is money, as they say, I am most certainly open to donations from readers who enjoy my writings or who agree with me that it communicating the faith and the news that directly affects us as Catholics, is a good thing.

Via the button you may contribute any amount you see fit to the Paypal account of this blog. The donation swill be used for further development of this blog or other goals associated with communicating the faith and the new of the Church.

Sancta Maria, hortus conclusus, ora pro nobis!

Sancte Ramon de Peñafort, ora pro nobis!

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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