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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!

St_JosephThe timing of the upcoming conclave seems to me rather fitting. A start date of the 12th may well lead to the inthronisation of the new Pope to take place on the 19th, which is the feast day of Saint Joseph. He is the patron of the Catholic Church, which is reason enough to note this (near) coinciding of events, but, as some readers may know, St. Joseph is of special significance to me as well. I took his name for my baptismal name and his intercession has been evident several times. One of the most notable examples did not even involve me directly: my fiancée, before our relationship started, prayed a novena to St. Joseph that I might return her feelings for me, which was exactly the rapid result. I only heard of this until after we got together.

The Pope emeritus’ birth name is Joseph, so perhaps Cardinals Josip Bozanic, Giuseppe Betori, Giuseppe Versaldi, Giuseppe Bertello or José Policarpo should be especially prepared… ?

All joking aside, I gladly follow Cardinal Dolan’s example in praying a novena to St. Joseph, starting tomorrow, and I will share it on the blog. A novena is a nine-day prayer for a special intention. Our intention can be that the conclave may be successful according to God’s will, that the cardinals may be open to the Holy Spirit and that the new Pope’s reign may start as and remain a blessing for the Church and the world.

The prayer and intention for the day will be published every morning from tomorrow until the 19th on this blog.

Cardinal_Dolan_presides_Mass_at_St_Peters_Basilica_Alejandro_Bermudez_CNA_CNA_3_3_13“We’ve got to keep in mind — you know what, even more important than the pope is what we’re doing right now. The life of the church goes on, and the life of the church centers around what we’re doing right now.”

It may not have seemed like it over the past days, but the above quote from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, spoken in his homily last Sunday, is right on the money. The selection of the Church’s new supreme shepherd is undoubtedly important, but it – and he – are only so, literally, by the grace of God.

If the Church can be said to have a core business, it is to lead people to God, and that doesn’t change when there is no Pope. Cardinals, even when they’re getting ready for the conclave, are still tasked with that all-encompassing duty, as is made especially clear on every Sunday. New York’s Cardinal Dolan was just one of, by now, 142 cardinals who have arrived in Rome, and who offered Masses throughout the city.

2012044930shepherd_3In these hectic days, it is important to remember that everything we do as Catholic Christians is rooted in the sacrifice of Christ, made present every day in the Eucharist. In that light, the conclave is not a popularity contest or the selection of a new CEO. In the Gospel of John, Jesus gives St. Peter the triple command to take care of His sheep.  That very same command is handed down through the centuries to every successor of St. Peter, including whoever the future Pope may be. That is who we are talking about these days: the shepherd of Christ’s flock, acting according to the example of the Good Shepherd. In that way, the conclave and every blog post, article, speculation and discussion about it must be rooted in Christ. Without Him, there are no sheep and there is no need for a shepherd.

Photo credit: Alejandro Bermudez/CNA

Today, all the cardinals of the Church received the official letter summoning them to Rome. Cardinal Sodano, as dean of the College of Cardinals, signed the letter. Cardinal Simonis, emeritus archbishop of Utrecht, was one of the cardinals who received the summons, although, like many others, he is already in Rome. The image below shows the letter in the hands of the cardinal, who won’t  be able to vote in the conclave, as he is over the age of 80. But all cardinals, elector or not, are expected to take their responsibilities in managing the goods and needs of the Church and the faithful during the sede vacante, as well as preparing for the conclave.Cardinal Sodano’s letter invites the cardinals to the first two General Congregations on Monday. A date for the conclave may be decided upon then, but that is by no means certain. All indications are that the cardinals want time to talk and think.

letter sodano simonis

The electors number 117, although two of them have chosen to remain at home. So here they are, the 115 cardinal electors who will soon be entering the conclave, which they will not be leaving until they have elected a new Supreme Pontiff. As Emeritus Pope Benedict (how odd it is to write that!) said yesterday morning, the new Pope is among them.

electors

A short primer on who’s who among the electors, ordered by precedence (and from left to right and top to bottom, starting at top left and ending at bottom right, in the collage above):

  • Giovanni Cardinal Re, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops
  • Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, Secretary of State and Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church
  • Antonios Cardinal Naguib, Patriarch emeritus of Alexandria of the Copts
  • Béchara Cardinal Raï, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites
  • Godfried Cardinal Danneels, Archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels
  • Joachim Cardinal Meisner, Archbishop of Köln
  • Nicolás Cardinal López Rodríguez, Archbishop of Santo Domingo
  • Roger Cardinal Mahony, Archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles
  • Jaime Cardinal Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana
  • Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, Archbishop emeritus of Montréal
  • Vinko Cardinal Puljic, Archbishop of Vrhbosna
  • Juan Cardinal Sandoval Íñiguez, Archbishop emeritus of Guadalajara
  • Antonio Cardinal Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid
  • Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi, Archbishop emeritus of Milan
  • Polycarp Cardinal Pengo, Archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam
  • Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna
  • Norberto Cardinal Rivera Carrera, Archbishop of Mexico
  • Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago
  • Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, President of the Congregation for Catholic Education
  • Crescenzio Cardinal Sepe, Archbishop of Naples
  • Walter Cardinal Kasper, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  • Ivan Cardinal Dias, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation fo the Evangelisation of Peoples
  • Geraldo Cardinal Agnelo, Archbishop emritus of São Salvador da Bahia
  • Audrys Cardinal Backis, Archbishop of Vilnius
  • Francisco Cardinal Errázuriz Ossa, Archbishop emritus of Santiago
  • Julio Cardinal Terrazas Sandoval, Archbishop of Santa Cruz de la Sierra
  • Wilfrid Cardinal Napier, Archbishop of Durban
  • Oscar Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa
  • Juan Cardinal Cipriani Thorne, Archbishop of Lima
  • Cláudio Cardinal Hummes, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Clergy
  • Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires
  • José Cardinal Policarpo, Patriarch of Lisbon
  • Severino Cardinal Poletto, Archbishop of Turin
  • Karl Cardinal Lehmann, Bishop of Mainz
  • Angelo Cardinal Scola, Archbishop of Milan
  • Anthony Cardinal Okogie, Archbishop emeritus of Lagos
  • Gabriel Cardinal Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum
  • Carlos Cardinal Amigo Vallejo, Archbishop emeritus of Sevilla
  • Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia
  • Ennio Cardinal Antonelli, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Family
  • Peter Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
  • Telesphore Cardinal Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi
  • George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney
  • Josip Cardinal Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb
  • Jean-Baptiste Cardinal Pham Minh Man, Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City
  • Philippe Cardinal Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon
  • Péter Cardinal Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest
  • Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
  • Agostino Cardinal Vallini, Archpriest of St. John Lateran
  • Jorge Cardinal Urosa Savino, Archbishop of Caracas
  • Jean-Pierre Cardinal Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux
  • Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
  • Seán Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston
  • Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz, Archbishop of Kraków
  • Carlo Cardinal Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna
  • Seán Cardinal Brady, Archbishop of Armagh
  • Lluís Cardinal Martínez Sistach, Archbishop of Barcelona
  • André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris
  • Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa
  • Théodore-Adrien Cardinal Sarr, Archbishop of Dakar
  • Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay
  • Francisco Cardinal Robles Ortega, Archbishop of Guadalajara
  • Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston
  • Odilo Cardinal Scherer, Archbishop of São Paulo
  • John Cardinal Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi
  • Raúl Cardinal Vela Chiriboga, Archbishop emeritus of Quito
  • Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa
  • Paolo Cardinal Romeo, Archbishop of Palermo
  • Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington
  • Raymundo Cardinal Assis, Archbishop of Aparecida
  • Kazimierz Cardinal Nycz, Archbishop of Warsaw
  • Albert Cardinal Patabendige Don, Archbishop of Colombo
  • Reinhard Cardinal Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising
  • George Cardinal Alencherry, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly of the Syro-Malabars
  • Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto
  • Dominik Cardinal Duka, Archbishop of Prague
  • Willem Cardinal Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Betori, Archbishop of Florence
  • Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York
  • Rainer Cardinal Woelki, Archbishop of Berlin
  • John Cardinal Tong Hon, Bishop of Hong Kong
  • Baselios Cardinal Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars
  • John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja
  • Jesús Cardinal Salazar Gómez, Archbishop of Bogotá
  • Luis Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila
  • Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue
  • Attilio Cardinal Nicora, President of the Financial Information Authority
  • William Cardinal Levada, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • Franc Cardinal Rode,  Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  • Leonardo Cardinal Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
  • Giovanni Cardinal Lajolo, President emeritus of the Governorate of the Vatican City State
  • Paul Cardinal Cordes, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”
  • Angelo Cardinal Comastri, Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Stanislaw Cardinal Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
  • Raffaele Cardinal Farina, Librarian emeritus of the Vatican Apostolic Library
  • Angelo Cardinal Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints
  • Robert Cardinal Sarah, President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”
  • Francesco Cardinal Monterisi, Archpriest emeritus of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls
  • Raymond Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
  • Kurt Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  • Paolo Cardinal Sardi, Partron of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta
  • Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy
  • Velasio Cardinal De Paolis, Pontifical Delegate for the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ
  • Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture
  • Fernando Cardinal Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples
  • Manuel Cardinal Monteiro de Castro, Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary
  • Santos Cardinal Abril y Castelló, Archpriest of St. Mary Major
  • Antonio Cardinal Vegliò, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Bertello, President of the Governorate of the Vatican City State
  • Francesco Cardinal Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
  • João Cardinal Bráz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  • Edwin Cardinal O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
  • Domenico Cardinal Calcagno, President of the Adminstration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Versaldi, President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See
  • James Cardinal Harvey, Archpriest of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls

Who we will see in white on the balcony of St. Peter’s sometime later this month remains anyone’s guess. Only Our Lord knows and, as Cardinal Pell said, it is up to the electors to find out.

Photo credit: [1] RKK.nl, [2] collage my own.

It’s been quite the year for the Church in the world, in the Netherlands and here on the blog. In this post, I want to look back briefly on what has transpired. What happened before will, in many cases, have its effect on what will happen in the coming year.

The variety of events has been great, but if we had to characterise 2012, we can of course list the major stories: the two consistories for the creation of new cardinals, the ongoing abuse crisis and the efforts in the Netherlands and Rome to deal with it, the Synod of Bishops, the start of the Year of Faith, the retirements, appointments and deaths, the local stories in my neck of the woods and the (mis)representation of the Church in the wider world. These can all characterise the year for the Catholic Church. But since there are as many interpretations as there are readers, I’ll limit myself to presenting the major stories on my blog per month.

For this blog, it has been a good year. With 87,017 views it has been the best year yet, and I am happy to note that I have been able to provide stories, opinions and translations that have been picked up well by other bloggers and media. The pope’s letter to the German bishops on the new translation of the Roman missal, for which I was able to create an English working translation; the Dutch translation of the Christmas address to the Curia; a German interview with Archbishop Müller and my list of surviving Vatican II Council Fathers are examples of this. Both local and international media picked these up, resulting in increased interest for my blog. For that, thank you.

But now, let’s once more go over 2012 and look back on what happened in that year:

TscherrigJanuary:
- Pope Benedict announces a consistory. The list of 22 new cardinals includes the archbishop of Utrecht.
- CDF releases a note with recommendations for the Year of Faith.
- Archbishop Tscherrig (pictured) leaves Scandinavia for Argentina.
- Cardinal Zen Ze-Kiun turns 80.
- In the abuse crisis, soon-to-be Cardinal Eijk speaks before a parliamentary commission.
- Bishop Jan Liesen is installed as bishop of Breda (Installation homily here).

german cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki (R)February:
- Dutch-born South-African Bishop Everardus Baaij passes away.
- Cardinal Levada opens a major symposium on sexual abuse in Rome.
- At the same symposium, Msgr. Charles Scicluna tells it like it is.
- The bishops of Belgium reply to a modernist movement among priests and laity.
- Cardinal-designate Eijk is interviewed by Zenit.
- Cardinal-designate Dolan delivers a landmark address about the new evangelisation.
- 22 new cardinals are created in the consistory of 18 February (new Cardinal Eijk pictured).
- Responsibilities within the Dutch bishops’ conference are reshuffled.
- In Germany, Bishop Reinelt retires.
- Dominik Schwaderlapp is appointed as auxiliary bishop of Cologne.
- In Mainz, Bishop Guballa passes away after a long sickbed.
- Cardinal Eijk returns home with a pastoral letter on the Eucharist.

Pope Shenouda IIIMarch:
- Cardinal Eijk announces that he will be keeping a closer eye on the celebration of the liturgy.
- Cardinal Quezada Toruño turns 80.
- Cardinal Sánchez passes away.
- Cardinal Simonis speaks to Zenit about the Second Vatican Council.
- Copenhagen’s Bishop emeritus Martensen passes away.
- The Dutch bishops respond to a new horrible chapter in the abuse crisis.
- Coptic Pope Shenouda II (pictured) passes away.
- The Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam makes public all the cases concerning sexual abuse by clergy.
- A new presidency for the COMECE.
- The Dutch bishops issue a letter concerning the celebration of the Easter Triduum, and the need to return its focus to the Eucharist.
- Pope Benedict visits Mexico and Cuba.
- Bishop Schwaderlapp is consecrated.

aponte martínezApril:
- Cardinal Egan turns 80.
- In the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, the vicar general announces he will enter a monastery.
- In a letter to parliament, The Dutch bishops outline four developments in the fight against sexual abuse.
- Pope Benedict directly addresses groups of disobedient priests and laity.
- Cardinal Daoud passes away.
- Cardinal Eijk reveals a monument for victims of sexual abuse in the Church.
- Cardinal Aponte Martínez (pictured) passes away.
- A parliamentary committee hears the ‘contact group’ for victims of sexual abuse.
- The Dutch chapter of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem invests new members in the cathedral of Groningen-Leeuwarden.
- Pope Benedict writes a letter to the German bishops and enters the debate about the new German translation of the Roman Missal.

bishop de korte, new altar st. joseph's cathedralMay:
- After 66 years, the Belorussian Diocese of Pinsk finally gets a new bishop.
- A new page on the blog, about my conversion story.
- The annual pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed takes place.
- Cardinal Vlk turns 80.
- Cardinal Eijk takes possession if his title church.
- The Deetman Commission undertakes a new abuse investigation, this time into the abuse suffered by women.
- Berlin’s Cardinal Woelki is misunderstood about homosexuality.
- The cathedral of St. Joseph receives a new altar (Bishop de Korte anointing it pictured) and marks the 125th anniversary of its consecration.

logo year of faithJune:
- Pope Benedict XVI visits Milan.
- New priests.
- Cardinal Quezada Toruño passes away.
- Florian Wörner is appointed as auxiliary bishop of Augsburg.
- The bishops of Roermond publish a brochure about Communion.
– The Dutch bishops follow suit with a letter about the same topic.
- Cardinal Schwery turns 80.
- The Instrumentum laboris of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation is published.
- The logo for the Year of Faith is revealed (pictured).
- A round of personnel changes in the Curia.
- Dutch Father Louis Tijssen is declared venerable.
- Archbishop Nowacki is appointed as the new nuncio to Scandinavia.
- The Heel abuse affair breaks.
- President-Delegates are appointed for the Synod.

Gerhard Ludwig MüllerJuly:
- Archbishop Müller (pictured) is appointed as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
- About half of the world’s bishops’ conferences have formulated guidelines against sexual abuse.
- Cardinal de Araújo Sales passes away.
- Bishop Borys Gudziak is appointed as Apostolic Exarch of France.
- Cardinal Stafford turns 80.

carlo martiniAugust:
- Bishop Wörner is consecrated, while Bishops Wehrle and Siebler retire.
- The Diocese of Rotterdam publishes a Prayer for Faith.
- Cardinal Rosales turns 80.
- Cardinal Shan Kuo-Hsi passes away.
- Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor turns 80.
- A Dutch priest’s apparent refusal to baptise the child of a lesbian couple fails to escalate much.
- Cardinal Martini (pictured) passes away.

pope benedict  lebanonSeptember:
- Cardinal Martini’s last interview causes some debate.
- Bishop de Korte marks the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
- Rumours surface that priests in the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden are unhappy with their new appointments.
- Elections in the Netherlands result in a loss for the Christian parties.
- Cardinal Rubiano Sáenz turns 80.
- Pope Benedict (pictured) visits Lebanon.
- Misunderstandings about ecumenism in the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch.
- Pope Benedict XVI appoints 36 Synod Fathers.
- Cardinal Baldelli passes away.
- Questions arise about the German ‘Church tax’.
- The first progress report on how the Church deals with abuse claims is released.

synod of bishopsOctober:
- German Bishops Wanke and Schraml retire.
- Dutch missionary Bishop Joseph Willigers passes away.
- Morocco does not take kindly to the arrival of a Dutch ‘abortion boat’.
- Vatican Promotor of Justice Charles Scicluna is recalled to Malta to become auxiliary bishop.
- The Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation begins (pictured).
- Cardinal Erdö outlines eleven points for the new evangelisation of Europe.
- Belgian Curial Bishop Frans Daneels is made an archbishop.
- The Year of Faith begins.
- Pope Benedict announces a small consistory for November.
- The Synod of Bishops closes.
- An attempt at stopping liturgical abusive carnival Masses in Eindhoven.
- Amsterdam’s St. Nicholas church is to be made a basilica.

brother hugo vowsNovember:
- Cardinal Arinze turns 80.
- Bishop Demming passes away.
- New sexual abuse accusations surface in Iceland against Bishop Gijsen.
- Liège’s Bishop Jousten retires.
- At Rolduc, Dutch seminarians attend a conference on new evangelisation.
- Bishop Michael Hrynchyshyn passes away.
- Hermit Brother Hugo makes his perpetual vows (pictured).
- The student chaplaincy in Tilburg is brought back into the Catholic fold.
- European intolerance towards religion on display in Slovakia.
- Cardinal Martino turns 80.
- Pope Benedict XVI creates six new cardinals.
- Dominican Fr. Timothy Radcliffe speaks about the ‘official Church’.

pope twitterDecember:
- Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer is appointed as bishop of Regensburg.
- Dutch missionary Bishop Wilhelmus Demarteau passes away.
- Dutch government announces pulling the plug on small religious broadcasters.
- Georg Gänswein is appointed as Prefect of the Papal Household and will be made an archbishop.
- Cardinal Scheid turns 80.
- Pope Benedict enters the Twitterverse (pictured).
- Pope Benedict publishes the Apostolic Letter on charity, Intima Ecclesiae natura.
- Dutch media totally misrepresent the pope on the family and gender.

That was 2012. Now let’s get 2013 started. Happy new year!

Opening the thirteenth general congregation on Tuesday morning, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic read a special message from the 90-year-old bishop of Fengxiang in China, Msgr. Lucas Ly Jingfeng, who wrote:

“Most Reverend and Excellent Fathers of the XIII Assembly of the Synod,

I would like to congratulate you, who could participate at the Synod and give homage to the Sepulcher of Saint Peter. I am very sad that you could not listen to any of the voices of the Chinese Church. Wishing to share at least some words with you, and above all with our Pope Benedict XVI, I am sending this brief message. I would like to say that our Church in China, in particular the laity, has always maintained up to today piety, faithfulness, sincerity and devotion to the first Christians, even while undergoing fifty years of persecutions. I would also like to add that I pray intensely and constantly to God the Omnipotent so that our piety, our faithfulness, our sincerity and our devotion may turn around tepidness, unfaithfulness and the secularization that have arisen abroad because of an openness and freedom without reins. In the Year of the Faith, in your synodal discussions you can see how our faith in China could be maintained unfailingly until today. And as the great Chinese philosopher Lao Tse said: “Just as calamity generates prosperity, thus in weakness calamity hides itself”. In the Church outside of China, tepidity, unfaithfulness and secularization of the faithful has spread to much of the clergy. Instead, in the Chinese Church the laity is more pious than the clergy. Could not perhaps piety, faithfulness, sincerity and the devotion of the Christian laity shake up the external clergy? I was very moved by the lament by Pope Benedict XVI: “As we know, in vast areas of the earth faith risks being extinguished, like a flame that is no longer fed. We are facing a profound crisis of faith, a loss of the religious sense that constitutes the greatest challenge to the Church today. The renewal of faith must therefore take priority in the commitment of the entire Church in our time” (Speech by the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the participants of the plenary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, January 27th 2012). However, I believe that our faith as Chinese Christians could console the Pope. I will not mention politics, which is always transeunte.

Lucas LY”

A loving and heartfelt message from the Church in China.

Following this, interventions continued, by 22 Synod fathers and 7 auditors in the morning sessions. The first speaker was Telesphore Cardinal Toppo, archbishop of Ranchi in India, who pulled few punches in his call towards religious congregation to become missionary again:

“I would like to make a humble appeal to the religious orders to become missionary again! In the history of evangelization, all the religious orders led by the Holy Spirit have done outstanding and marvelous work. Can we say the same of the Religious Congregations today? Could it be that they have begun working like Multinationals, doing very good and necessary work to meet the material needs of humanity, but have forgotten that the primary purpose of their founding was to bring the kerygma, the Gospel, to a lost world? We must appreciate many Youth Groups and new Ecclesial Movements who are taking up the challenge. But, in my opinion this Synod must appeal to the Religious men and women to explicitly and directly take up the work of evangelization and transmission of faith in collaboration with the local bishops! I would also like to call upon the Sacred Congregation for Consecrated life to be pro active in promoting the sensus ecclesiae among all religious.”

Bishop Joseph Zziwa of Kiyinda-Mityana in Uganda called for the Church to fight for the return of religious education in schools, identifying the problem as follows:

“[I]n some countries, in recent years, catechesis or teaching religion has been sidelined or removed from the education system even in Catholic-founded Schools or institutions of learning. The situation is aggravated in public institutions where there are no programs of catechesis or Christian religious education at all for our Catholic students. Religious education is considered to be a private matter, to be attended to only in the church or at home.”

 This is certainly the situation in the west, not least here in the Netherlands.

A topic that some noted seemed to be missing from the Synod deliberations, was touched upon by  Archbishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha, of Mariana in Brazil, when he said:

“As the liturgy is the special place where the presence of the Gospel is alive and therefore the privileged place for education in the faith, or rather “the permanent holy mystagogy of the Church”, this must appear in the very manner in which it is celebrated. The fascinating and contagious beauty of the mystery hidden in rites and symbols must be capable of being expressed in all its strength for the liturgy to truly evangelize. Therefore the new evangelization depends to a great extent on the capacity to make the liturgy the source of spiritual life. Probably our most demanding task and the greatest challenge is to succeed in ensuring that our liturgical celebrations are ever more beautiful and transparent in their divine beauty, source of new and renewing strength that brings joy and hope to the Christian, in order to live in Christ and in the love of the Lord.”

Without the liturgy, the earthly reflection of the divine worship of God, we are unable to know and relate to our heavenly Father, let alone let others come to know Him.

Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, of Jakarta in Indonesia, shares a personal anecdote to illustrate that evangelisation is sometimes as simple as leading by example:

“I would like to share with you a simple experience I had during my visit to a parish where I met a local catechist. I asked him, “How many catechumens do you have?” I was surprised to hear that he had more than ninety catechumens. It was quite a lot. I asked him further, “Have you ever asked your catechumens why they wish to be baptized into the Catholic Church?” He answered, “Many of them said that they were touched by the way Catholics pray during public events such as wedding feasts or funeral services”. The prayers are so touching to their hearts, because in those occasions the invocations and benedictions are delivered in their vernacular mother tongue so that they readily understand the content, whereas before they usually heard prayers recited in a foreign language, as Muslims pray in Arabic.”

One of the auditors, experts in various fields, who offered an intervention, was Mikhail Fateev of a St. Petersburg, Russia, television channel. He pointed at that, i the necessary ecumenical outreach in Russia people are less interested in meeting ‘fellow Christians’ than ‘Catholic Christians’:

“[I]n search for unity we should not reject or forget our Catholic identity. The people are more ready to speak with us as exactly with the Catholics, not as with “common Christians”. We could see this after a meeting organized by the lay Catholics in one of the largest bookstores of Saint Petersburg. The event attracted much interest in media. So we decided to start a series of public meetings and discussions on Catholic Church, its faith and traditions. We, Catholics, went out to meet the people and were met with a great interest!”

Something to keep in mind in our own ecumenical efforts: our own identity is the first step towards commonality.

At the start of the afternoon session, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone spoke and announced a delegation to Syria to express the Holy See’s solidarity with the Syrian people, their spiritual closeness to the Christians there, and to encourage an agreement to resolve the ongoing civil war. The delegation is set to leave for Damascus next week, and will consist of Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya (Archbishop of Kinshasa), Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran (President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue), Timothy Cardinal Dolan (Archbishop of New York), Bishop Fabio Suescun Mutis (Military Ordinar of Colombia), Bishop Joseph Nguyen Nang (Bishop of Phat Diem), Archbishop Dominique Mamberti (Secretary for Relations with States) and Msgr. Alberto Ortega (official of the Secretariat of State).

Nine interventions followed in the course of the fourteenth general congregation, including one by Bishop Everard de Jong (pictured, far left), the single Dutch delegate to the Synod. He spoke about the importance of prayer, especially to the Holy Spirit, in the new evangelisation. “It was Pentecost that started the first evangelization, and we need a new Pentecost,” he said, suggesting also that the Holy Father introduce Benedictine prayers at the end of Mass, as was standard in the past, or perhaps a constant novena to the Holy Spirit.

“We do not only have to present the gospel and the catechism, but have to promote the spiritual exercises, in which we confront people with the Jesus of the gospels and the Church, and help them to compare the influence of His Spirit in their lives with the outcomes of a more hedonistic way of life (cfr. Ga. 5:29-23). Thus they will be led to the knowledge and recognition of the objective truth of their human nature, its deepest desires, and God in their conscience. In this way they will discover St. Peter and his successors, and the church (Cf. Bl. John Henry Card. Newman (1801-1890). This means we should give priests and religious a better spiritual formation, in order to be spiritual directors, to be real spiritual fathers and mothers.”

Bishop de Jong also spoke about family and life:

“Families are essential in the transmission of the gospel. In this context our society does not know sin anymore. Still, sin has its influence on the openness to the gospel-message. Pornography, sexuality outside marriage of man and woman, contraception, abortion, will close the heart. Who, indeed, can say yes to God, the giver of life in abundance, if he or she, consciously or unconsciously, says no to human life? This means that the Church should courageously promote the gospel of life, including the theology of the body, natural family planning, and at the same time announce the very merciful God.”

After the interventions from the Synod fathers, six fraternal delegates and one special guest also offered their thoughts, among them Brother Alois, the prior of Taizé, who spoke about the need for communion as a fruitful basis for hope and faith.

Photo credit: [2] Wilson Dias/ABr, [4] Lidy Peters/RKK

The Friday sessions, presided over by Cardinal Robles Ortega, of the Synod started normal enough, with a series of interventions by  23 Synod fathers.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc and head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, suggested that the effectiveness of homilies be made a topic for a future assembly of the Synod. Before him, Bishop Javier Echeverría Rodríguez of Opus Dei had also mentioned the need for this, and suggested that could be achieved by the homilist directing is word also to himself, to lead by example, so to speak.

Cardinal Ravasi spoke, among others, about the tensions between science and faith:

“The incompatibility between science and faith and the prevarications of one against the other and vice versa, as has occurred in the past and continues to occur, should be replaced by mutual recognition of the dignity of their respective epistemological statuses: science is dedicated to the “scene”, that is the phenomenon, while theology and philosophy look to the “foundation”. A distinction, but not of separateness to the point of reciprocal exclusion, since they have a single common object, that is, being and existence. It is therefore comprehensible that overlaps and tensions occur, especially in the field of bioethics.
Dialogue is therefore indispensable, without arrogance and without confusion linked to specific levels and approaches. As John Paul II indicated in 1988, “it is absolutely important that each discipline continues to enrich, nurture and provoke the other to be more fully what it should be and to contribute to our vision of what we are and where we are going”. The great scientist Max Planck, father of quantum theory, also confirmed this: “Every serious and reflective person realizes… there can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other”.

Archbishop Józef Michalik, of Przemysl, Poland, reminded the Synod that we can’t lay the blame for the current crisis of faith merely with others:

“If the faith of today becomes ever weaker, we must not only blame others, but rather ourselves. If the message of faith is not interesting or attractive – this is perhaps the case because that same message is no longer interesting or attractive to us, because it does not excite us, because we do not preach Christ to our families or on the streets of our cities.”

In the afternoon, Pope Benedict XVI hosted the Synod fathers, together with Patriarch Bartholomaois I of Constantinople and Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, for a lunch in the Paul VI Hall. He followed the “lovely tradition initiated by Pope John Paul II to crown the Synod with a shared meal.” He likened the Synod experience to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus “lit up their hearts and illuminated their minds” allowing them to recognise Him at supper.

“Thus in the Synod we are walking together with our contemporaries. We pray to the Lord that He may illuminate us, that He may light up our hearts so they may become prophetic, that He may illuminate our minds; and we pray that at supper, in the Eucharistic communion, we can really be open, see Him and thus also light up the world and give His light to this world of ours.”

The evening session, the Eighth General Congregation began later, as the Holy Father had already suggested during the lunch. First up was an intervention by Professor Werner Arber, professor of microbiology and President of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences. He gave a “Reflection on the relations between the sciences and religious faith”.

Following this, the members of the Commission for the Message were announced. Four of these, including the president, Cardinal Betori, and the Vice President, Archbishop Tagle, were appointed by the pope, while the remaining eight were elected by the Synod fathers. The members, tasked with composing the pastorl message related to the topic of the Synod, are:

Giuseppe Cardinal Betori, Archbishop of Florence, Italy
Archbishop Luis Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, Philippines
Polycarp Cardinal Pengo, Archbishop of Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania
Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, Austria
Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture
George Cardinal Alencherry, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly of the Syro-Malabars, India
Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, United States
Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium
Archbishop John Atcherley Dew, Archbishop of Wellington, New Zealand
Archbishop Sérgio Da Rocha, Archbishop of Brasilia, Brazil
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
Father Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, Superior General of the Society of Jesus

Photo credit: [2] Bishop Gerald Kicanas

With the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod Bishops opening on Sunday, it is about time that the final details were released. And so they were today. The Holy See press office presents them on a dedicate page. Here, the Synodus Episcoporum Bulletin is perhaps the most interesting, as it will cover the daily progress of the Synod. The full list of participants, from the Holy Father down to the special guests, is also available.

From the Dutch bishops’ conference, Bishop Everard de Jong (left) is sent to participate. He is of course the auxiliary bishop of Roermond and with few responsibilities within the conference, he may the designated international representative of our Church province. Other participants from our corner of Europe are Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium,  Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg im Breisgau, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-Van Elst of Limburg, Germany all, and Bishop Berislav Grgic of Tromsø, representing all of Scandinavia.

Most bishops’ conferences send one delegate, but there are a few which send more. These are Brazil (4), Canada (4), Mexico (4), the United States (4), India (4), France (4), Italy (4), Poland (4), Nigeria (3), Argentina (3), Colombia (3), Philippines (3), Germany (3), Spain (3), Southern Africa (2), Cameroon (2), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2), Kenya (2), Tanzania (2), Uganda (2), Bolivia (2), Chile (2), Ecuador (2), Peru (2), Venezuela (2), Indonesia (2), Vietnam (2), England & Wales (2), Ireland (2), Portugal (2) and Australia (2). A snapshot of the Catholic world powers, perhaps.

At the same time, the Apostolic Penitentiary released a decree granting a plenary indulgence for the Year of Faith. It outlines four ways in which such an indulgence can be obtained. These root the experience of the Year of faith in prayer, pilgrimage, confession of faith and unity with the local ordinary and the Holy Father.

Several participants in the Synod may be followed via social media. Examples are Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington and Relator of the Synod, Wilfrid Cardinal Napier, who leads the southern African delegation, Odilo Cardinal Scherer, who does the same for the Brazilians, Archbishop Gérald Lacroix, leader of the Canadian group, and Timothy Cardinal Dolan, heading the American delegation.

“Somehow we have to recapture the notion that the Church isn’t primarily about running institutions or winning political debates. It’s about reaching deep inside the human heart and stirring what’s best in it, and then boldly going out into the world and insisting that the better angels of our nature can prevail, that cynicism and ego don’t have to be the last word about the kind of culture we pass on to our children, and that the Church is an ally in every positive stirring and hopeful current in that culture. That’s a vision worth devoting one’s life to, and if that’s not affirmative orthodoxy, what is?”

Timothy Cardinal Dolan,
from A People of Hope: Archbishop Timothy Dolan in Conversation With John L. Allen Jr.

It’s strange and sad that we find it so hard to be faithful Catholics – faithful to the teachings of Christ and His Church – without descending into arguments and disagreements. Apparently, it is often easier to pillory a person that we disagree with, be there a good reason or not, instead of communicating our disagreements in accordance with the joy that our faith calls for. But that’s also understandable: it is, after all, something very personal. Faith is, by definition. If someone then says or writes something that we think is in error, we feel the natural urge to correct them.

But what would be the Catholic approach to this correcting and the debate that will follow? I think the answer to that question is ‘affirmative orthodoxy’. True to Our Lord and the Church, but in a positive way. John L. Allen Jr., in a 2009 column, defines it as follows: “No compromise on essential points of doctrine and discipline, but the most positive, upbeat presentation possible.”

Our message is a very joyful one. How can we not present it with a smile? When we engage other people, we do so out of love: Christ teaches us to work towards what’s best for others. His salvation is the best thing that has ever, and could ever happen to us. While our presentation should not be of the “I’m okay, you’re okay” kind, it should reflect the content of what we try to communicate.

Faith in God also entails faith in the people He created, and that faith should not be crushed underneath relentless attacks, insinuations and arguments, but should flourish as we are open, honest and loving. Does that mean we can’t disagree? Of course it doesn’t. Errors are there to be corrected, and we have a framework by which to determine what is error and what is not: the teachings that the Church communicates.

In the Gospel of Matthew we find what to do if someone does something wrong:

“If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: whatever the misdemeanour, the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain the charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a gentile or a tax collector” [Matt. 18:15-17].

Our first recourse should never be to publicly pillory a person for the mistake he made. Instead, we must discuss it one-on-one with that person, and if need be with one or two others. Only then does the community of faithful come into view. This is the honest approach, and it fits in well with affirmative orthodoxy, for some errors  are serious indeed, and should be treated as such, but they are never reason to disavow the person making them. Even gentiles and tax collectors are able to mend their ways. We are all evidence of that.

And, lastly, let’s not forget that we are equally prone to mistakes. What we consider I mistake may not turn out to be one upon closer consideration, just as our own understanding of what is correct must also be properly considered and understood.

In the run-up to the previous consistory, we’ve heard often that one of the duties of cardinals is to aid the pope in all manner of Church-related affairs. Exactly how that takes shape became clear yesterday, as the new cardinals have been appointed to seats on various congregations, tribunals, councils and committees. Here follows a list of the dicasteries and the new cardinals that were assigned to them.

  • Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Cardinals Alencherry, Filoni and Coccopalmerio
  • Congregation for the Oriental Churches: Cardinals Alencherry, Dolan, Muresan, Filoni and O’Brien
  • Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments: Cardinal Vegliò
  • Congregation for the Causes of the Saints: Cardinals Monteiro de Castro and Abril y Castelló
  • Congregation for Bishops: Cardinals Monteiro de Castro, Abril y Castelló, Bertello and Versaldi
  • Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples: Cardinals Tong Hon, Abril y Castelló, Bertello and Calcagno
  • Congregation for the Clergy: Cardinals Eijk and Braz de Aviz
  • Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life: Cardinals Duka and Versaldi
  • Congregation for Education: Cardinals Collins, Eijk, Betori, Woelki, Filoni, Braz de Aviz and O’Brien
  • Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura: Cardinals Coccopalmerio and Versaldi
  • Pontifical Council for the Laity: Cardinal Vegliò
  • Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity: Cardinals Woelki and Coccopalmerio
  • Pontifical Council for the Family: Cardinal Vegliò
  • Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: Cardinals Duka and Bertello
  • Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”: Cardinal O’Brien
  • Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People: Cardinal Monteiro de Castro
  • Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers: Cardinal Calcagno
  • Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue: Cardinal Tong Hon
  • Pontifical Council for Culture: Cardinal Betori
  • Pontifical Council for Social Communications: Cardinals Collins and Dolan
  • Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation: Cardinal Dolan
  • Pontifical Committee for the International Eucharistic Congresses: Cardinal Braz de Aviz

Both new to the Congregation for Education: Cardinals Thomas Collins and Wim Eijk

All the Church’s cardinals under the age of 80 (and some over 80) have one or more functions within the dicasteries of the Roman Curia. This is in addition to their regular duties as diocesan bishops or curial prelates. In practice it means that they’ll have to be in Rome a bit more often than before.

Our own Cardinal Eijk has been appointed to the Congregations for Clergy (responsible for all secular priests and deacons) and Education (seminaries and Catholic schools). He will than be in Rome for up to four times a year, as these dicasteries meet. Cardinal Eijk will not be needed in Rome for the day-to-day affairs of the Congregations and, even then, he will of course be able to do a significant amount of work from Utrecht.

These appointments form one of two steps that fully integrate new cardinals into the curia. The other step is the official taking possession of their title churches. This can take some time, sometimes up to a year after the consistory in which a cardinal was created.  Of the latest batch, only Cardinals Filoni and Grech have done so. Cardinals Becker, Monteiro de Castro and Tong Hon will take possession of their churches today, and Cardinal Coccopalmerio will follow on Thursday. The dates for the other cardinals are not yet known.

Photo credit: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

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?

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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.

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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:

4 April: [English] Pope Francis - Interview with Belgian youth.

25 February: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Brief aan de Gezinnen.

24 February: [Dutch] Raymond Kardinaal Burke - De radicale oproep van de paus tot de nieuwe evangelisatie.
De focus van Paus Franciscus op liefde en praktische pastorale zorg in de grotere context van de Schrift en de leer van de Kerk.

21 February: [Dutch] Aartsbisschop Angelo Becciu - Brief aan de Nederlandse studenten.
Namens paus Franciscus reageert de Substituut van het Staatsecretariaat op pausgroet.tk.

20 February: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Welkomstwoord op het Consistorie.
De paus begroet de kardinalen voor het 11e Buitengewone Consistorie, en vat de doelstellingen kort samen.

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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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