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The European Citizen’s Initiative “One of Us“, which aims to collect 1 million signatures to block the financing of activities which require the destruction of human embryos, just reached its goal today.
With 1 million signatories from at least seven member states of the European Union, the Initiative organisers will now be heard by the European Commission and the European Parliament, before the Commission will formulate a response. The achieved goal is therefore not a guarantee that the EU will be taking steps to protect human life at all stages, but a chance for “One of Us” to be heard.
As part of the regulations for a European Citizen’s Initiative, a set number of signatures must be collected in every member state. This goal must be reached in seven states for the Initiative to be valid. “One of Us” reached that goal in Austria (almost 31,000 signatures), Germany (over 74,000), Spain (almost 62,000), France (almost 84,000), Hungary (almost 50,000), Italy (almost 360,000), Lithuania (over 9,000), the Netherlands (over 23,000), Poland (almost 160,000), Romania (almost 66,000) and Slovakia (almost 22,000). That’s 11 countries, while Portugal will most likely reach its goal in the next weeks.
”One of Us” has until 1 November to collect signatures and has stated the desire to collect 1,500,000 in total.
Haven’t signed yet? Do so here.
As the registration closed on 5 April, some 300 young Catholics from the Netherlands had signed up for the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which will take place in July. Although this is about 1,000 less than the number who went to Madrid in 2011, the number can’t be considered as very low. Whereas a bus trip sufficed for Madrid, for Rio, the pilgrims will be making an intercontinental flight, as well as significant plane journeys within Brazil or, in one case, from Suriname to Brazil. Higher costs and the far greater distance will have kept more people from committing.
The Dutch pilgrims, which will be accompanied by Bishops Hendriks, Mutsaerts and De Jong, are also joined by a group from the Diocese of Paramaribo. That is a similar construction to the one used in 2011, when the Surinam pilgrims joined up with the group from the Diocese of Rotterdam before travelling south to Spain. The Dutch pilgrims will now be guests in Suriname before travelling to Rio.
Other pilgrim groups will start their World Youth Day experience in Brazil, in the Archdiocese of Belo Horizonte and Fortaleza and the Diocese of Almenara. Two of these circumscriptions have connections to the Netherlands: Belo Horizonte is the city of Blessed Eustáquio van Lieshout, a Dutch missionary who worked miracles for the sick under his care; and Almenara’s Bishop Hugo van Steekelenburg was born in the Netherlands.
As in earlier editions of the World Youth Days, the first week will be spent in dioceses and communities across the host country and neighbouring countries. Starting on 20 July, the young pilgrims will start arriving in Rio de Janeiro.
Two days ago I wrote about the three weeks that Bishop Jos Punt lived as a hermit in Spain. Yesterday saw the publication of a short interview with the bishop on the diocesan website. I have created an English translation of the interview as well.
An interesting read from a bishop who tried to hear God as clearly as possible.
Photo credit: Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam
Called a “zealous pastor” by Pope Benedict XVI, Giovanni Cardinal Cheli swapped the temporal for the eternal last night, after 94 years of life spent for the most part in service to “the Gospel and to the Church”. The College of Cardinals, of which Cardinal Cheli was a non-voting member, now number 209, with 118 of them electors.
Giovanni Cheli was born in Turin and was ordained for the Diocese of Asti in 1942, after obtaining a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University. In Asti, he worked as chaplain to the youth section of Catholic Action, and also taught at the diocesan seminary. In 1952, after a time working in Rome and earning a licentiate in theology, Fr. Cheli entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1952.
His first posting was in Guatemala, followed by Spain and Italy. In Madrid, he performed pastoral work in addition to his duties in the nunciature. In 1967, Fr. Cheli was assigned to the Council for Public Affairs of the Church. In 1973, he became permanent observer to the United Nations, an assignment which was confirmed again in 1976. In 1978, he was once of the few bishops consecrated by Pope John Paul I. Archbishop was renowned as an expert on the Church’s issues in relations with the Communist nations.
Archbishop Cheli was appointed as Pro-President of the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, which would became a pontifical council in 1988, still under the leadership of Archbishop Cheli.
Shortly before his retirement in 1998, Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal, with the deaconry of Santi Cosma e Damiano. Ten years later, Cardinal Cheli became a cardinal priest with the same title church.
Outspokenly critical on many issues, Cardinal Cheli protested the US invasion of Iraq in 2001, the age limits for cardinals and some of the curial appointments of Pope Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Cheli was among the five oldest cardinals of the Church.
Yesterday, the summer for the Church truly began as Pope Benedict XVI left the Vatican for his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. While we may see some news and appointments trickle out of the Holy See until the middle of the month, things will only really start picking up until late August, as the papal return to Rome comes closer. Last summer was an anomaly in that respect, as Benedict travelled to Spain for the World Youth Days in the middle of his summer vacation. The first major event this year will be his visit to Lebanon in September.
Let’s use this time, which will undoubtedly be reflected in a rather less frequent posting routine here, as a time of rest, reflection, prayer and recharging for the coming year. And as we do so, let’s add a prayer for our Holy Father, that his summer at Lake Albano may offer him enough rest, so that we may soon see the joyous pope which we have too often had to trade for a tired-looking pontiff in recent months.
Photo credit: VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images
Freedom of expression and religion is apparently a flexible concept. At least as far as the city council of the town of Alaca in Spain is concerned. Apparently, the aforementioned freedoms are rights which only apply if you say things that the popular majority agrees with. That is what the Catholics of the Diocese of Alcalá de Henares recently discovered as the aforementioned city council called for the removal of Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Plá, following statements which were deemed homophobic.
Following Bishop Reig Plá’s Good Friday homily, in which he formulated the Church’s teaching that homosexual acts are inherently disordered and criticised sexual behaviour in modern society, several leftist organisations, together with Spain’s Socialist Party, tabled a motion to have the bishop transferred to another diocese, as well as banning him from all official functions in the city.
The diocese’s response rightly called this “a sad and intolerable violation of human rights and of the principle of the separation of Church and state”. Bishop Reig Plá has the support of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, his own priests, the International Federation of Associations of Catholic Doctors, and, strikingly, some 20 individuals with same-sex attraction from his diocese.
Reading all this, I have to wonder why people continue to be surprised when a bishop supports Catholic teaching? Is it because they somehow assume that the Church is in favour of current sexual morality and the behaviour of some homosexual people? Do they think that a bishop who says something that is difficult and challenging is out of touch with the Church? Bishop Reig Plá’s words are nothing new. Sexual behaviour in modern society is a source of serious concern, and certain examples of homosexualist behaviour, such as gay pride marches, do nothing but sexualising the human person under the banner of tolerance. Well, it should be clear that exactly these groups, as well as many on the left side of the political spectrum, are the ones who are intolerant. It is they who do not allow different opinions and apparently consider basic human rights and freedoms to be selectively applicable.
The modern response to some undesired statements is the call for the banishment of everyone and everything that is not in full agreement with the opinion of the popular majority (or what some people think the popular majority should think and want). That is not freedom or tolerance. It is intolerance and the dictatorship of relativism.
Everyone enjoys the right to freely express themselves and to live according to their faith. These are basic human rights. No one has to agree with what a person says, but that person still has every right to say it, without suffering criminal prosecution or political harassment. Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Plá is a shepherd and teacher of his people. On Good Friday he taught about sexual morality. He has every right and duty to do so, and no one has a right to force him from performing the duties he was consecrated for.
After a busy morning in which he consecrated Archbishops Charles Brown and Marek Solczyński during today’s Epiphany Mass, the Holy Father appeared a bit later than usual for his noon Angelus address. He quickly moved to the big event that was already causing a considerable buzz among Catholics – journalists and otherwise – on Twitter: the announcement of a consistory on 18 February in which no less than 22 new cardinals – among them 18 electors – will be created.
There are a few big names in the list, but standing out for us here in the Netherlands is that of Archbishop Willem Jacobus Eijk. Three years after his arrival in Utrecht, he will become the metropolitan see’s fifth cardinal in a row. Turning 59 in June, Cardinal-designate Eijk will be able to participate in at least two conclaves, I would think (unless the sucessor of Pope Benedict will pull a JPII and remain on the seat of St. Peter for 20 years or more).
The selection of Archbishop Eijk was not unexpected. His name was already mentioned in the run-up to the November 2010 consistory, but the 80th birthday of Cardinal Simonis, the only Dutch elector, cleared the way for Eijk to succeed him in the College of Cardinals. With the title of cardinal comes, of course, a title church in Rome and a whole bag of expectations. And certainly the local media, which has been seeing the Church and the archbishop in the light of the abuse crisis, will be asking a whole heap of questions about Eijk’s suitability for the red hat. But these are questions being asked too late. A candidate’s suitability as cardinal flows from his suitability as bishop or priest. Added to that is the issue of the College of Cardinals reflecting the world Church and the importance of a see or curial position reflected in a cardinal title. The Archdiocese of Utrecht under the guidance of Archbishop Eijk is, in the mind of the pope and most likely also in light of the future, deserving of a cardinal at the helm.
Here is the full list of future cardinals:
- Fernando Filoni, 65, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of People
- João Bráz de Aviz, 64, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
- Manuel Monteiro de Castro, 73, Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary (only appointed as such yesterday!)
- Giuseppe Bertello, 69, President of the Governorate of Vatican City State
- Domenico Calcagno, 69, President of the Administration of the Patrimony of theApostolic See
- Giuseppe Versaldi, 68, President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See
- Santos Abril y Castelló, 76, Vice-Chamberlain of the Apostolic Chamber and Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major
- Edwin Frederick O’Brien, 72, Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
- Antonio Maria Vegliò, 74, President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
- Francesco Coccopalmerio, 73, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
- Giuseppe Betori, 65, Archbishop of Firenze
- George Alencherry, 66, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly
- Thomas Christopher Collins, 65, Archbishop of Toronto
- Willem Jacobus Eijk, 58, Archbishop of Utrecht
- John Tong Hon, 72, Bishop of Hong Kong
- Rainer Maria Woelki, 55, Archbishop of Berlin (the youngest member of the College of Cardinals)
- Timothy Michael Dolan, 62, Archbishop of New York
- Dominik Jaroslav Duka, 68, Archbishop of Prague
- Prosper Grech, 86, Priest of the Order of St. Augustine
- Karl Josef Becker, 83, Priest of the Society of Jesus
- Lucian Muresan, 80, Major Archbishop of Fagaras si Alba Iulia (Romanian)
- Julien Ries, 91, Priest of Namur, Belgium
This consistory is a fairly Italian affair. With 7 new cardinals, Italy easily overtakes the United States and Germany, which each gain two cardinals (Dolan and O’Brien; Woelki and Becker), Brazil (Bráz de Aviz), Portugal (Monteiro de Castro), Spain (Abril y Castelló), India (Alencherry), Canada (Collins), the Netherlands (Eijk), China (Tong Hon), the Czech Republic (Duka), Malta (Grech), Romania (Muresan) and Belgium (Ries) each have one new cardinal.
A report at Catholic News Agency seems once and for all to put an end to the criticism of those who consider the World Youth Days nothing but a drain on the host city’s economy, and especially those who protested and harrassed youth, priests and religious for it.
The coffers of Madrid gained no less than 159 million Euros, or some 216 million dollar, for hosting the 1.5 million pilgrims, per calculations from a Confederation of Businessman of Madrid. The city itself estimates a total of 146 million Euros (199 million dollar). The article linked above has more positive statistics, as well as the news that Cardinal Rouco Varela, the archbishop of Madrid and host of the WYD, was awarded the Madrid Tourism Prize in recognition of his work and the positive result (financial and otherwise) of the WYD.
These results certainly put a lid on the intolerant and aggressive words and actions of some people, such as these…
Photo credit: Reuters/Juan Medina
Today, Friday 5 August, the great exodus has begun. Or, in less dramatic words, the first diocesan group has left for the World Youth Days in Spain. It is the first of several travel initiatives from the Diocese of Roermond, and their first destination will be Lisieux. Over the course of the next five days, other groups will follow. All dioceses will have organised trips, and so have many others, such as religious communities, individual parishes and movements.
Two days from now, on 7 August, the Dioceses of Groningen-Leeuwarden and Breda will depart, the first for Lisieux, the second for Taizé. On the next day, while these dioceses are at their initial destinations, the aformentioned group from Roermond will be at St. Bernadette in Nevers, and the Dioceses of Rotterdam and Paramaribo, travelling together, will head south for a sight-seeing tour of France.
On 9 August, the Roermond group will be in Lourdes, while the young pilgrims from the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch will have a two-day prep weekend.
On 10 August, the groups from the Archdiocese of Utrecht (which includes yours truly) and the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam will leave the Netherlands, the Breda and Groningen-Leeuwarden groups will be in Lourdes. The Haarlem-Amsterdam group will arrive in Taizé on the same day.
On the 11th, the ‘s Hertogenbosch pilgrims will have completed their preparations and travel south, while most of the other groups will be arriving in their host dioceses for the Days in the Diocese. Breda, Rotterdam and Paramaribo will be in the Diocese of Calahorra y La Calzada Logroño, Utrecht and Groningen-Leeuwarden in the Archdiocese of Zaragoza, and Roermond in Avila.
On the 12th of August, more pilgrims from Roermond will arrive in Avila by plane. The group from Haarlem-Amsterdam will arrive in their host diocese of Urgel. They won’t be spending their Days in the Diocese in Spain, but in Andorra. The group from ‘s Hertogenbosch, then, will arrive in The Archdiocese of Toledo.
On the 15th all groups will head towards Madrid, arriving on the same day. They’ll join in with other travellers from all over the world until the closing Mass of the World Youth Days 2011. Some will head home on that last day, others will stay in Madrid a day longer or even visit other destinations in Spain before heading home.
When we leave Zaragoza for Madrid on 15 August, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, archbishop in the Spanish capital, will be receiving the youth of the world for the second time in his career as bishop. When the World Youth Days of 1989 were held in Santiago de Compostela, he was archbishop there. In 1994 he was moved to Madrid, where, from 16 to 21 August, the 2011 edition of the WYD will take place.
The Metropolitan Archdiocese of Madrid lies in the Spanish heartland. It is one of the smaller dioceses in size, but not in population, since it contains the urban sprawl of the Spanish capital. There are an estimated 3.5 million Catholics (about 90% of the total population) living in the archdiocese. As a diocese, Madrid is not very old. Only in 1885 was it split off from the Archdiocese of Toledo. In 1964 it became an Archdiocese, but it took until 1991 for two suffragan dioceses, Alcalá de Henares and Getafe, to be split off from Madrid., and it to become a Metropolitan see. The map below shows the location of the triangular Province of Madrid, with the archdiocese in dark green.
The current episcopal hierarchy of Madrid consists of the aforementioned Cardinal Rouco Varela and three auxiliary bishops – Msgr. César Franco Martínez, Msgr. Fidel Herráez Vegas and Msgr. Juan Martínez Camino.
The cathedral of the archdiocese if the Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena – the Cathedral of Our Lady of Almudena – located on the western edge of Madrid’s old centre. It is also a fairly new cathedral, only consecrated by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1993.
It is not known yet if the cathedral will be playing a part in our own travel plans. While in Madrid, there will be daily Masses as well as catechesis session, but the latter will be taking place in the Basílica de Nuestro Padre Jesús de Medinaceli, located only a few hundred meters from the location where Pope Benedict XVI will be welcomed into the city on 18 August. The basilica is built around a statue of Jesus the Nazarene, which has gained a solid devotion over the course of centuries. It is said to play a part in the Stations of the Cross on 19 August.