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In a way, it’s nice to be able to look back on a normal month. No papal resignation, no sede vacante, no conclave, no new Pope (well, the latter is not entirely true…). A fairly average number of 8,378 views in April reflects this. Not to say there weren’t any events and posts that did not draw attention…
1: Countdown to papal Twitter launch: 843
2: Léonard’s example in the face of insanity: 290
3: What to learn from the attack on Abp. Léonard: 181
4: A Catholic queen for the Netherlands? & Before Sacra Liturgia, Bishop Rey explains why liturgy matters: 93
5: Six years ago today: 75
6: Papal prayers for a new King: 66
7: Sacra Liturgia 2013 – why liturgy matters: 65
8: Pope Francis and “God spray”: 64
9: The fall of Cardinal Piacenza: 50
10: Synod of Bishops – day nine: 48
And, as ever, the tin cup still rattles, time still equals money and the Pope is, indeed, still Catholic. Don’t forget to support this blog with asmall donation of whichever size you prefer:
What a month it has been. Beginning with the farewell of Pope Benedict XVI, we rode the waves of the sede vacante, the conclave and the election of Pope Francis, and various other events that added some lines to this blog. All in all, it took quite some work to keep these pages filled as things developed, so I hope that a few days of less communication is forgiven. But all the effort brought its own reward, as there was interest from across the globe in my writings. In total, I could chalk up 15,933 visits to these pages. That’s triple the number of a regular quiet month. Thank you!
On to the top 10 of most popular blog posts of March:
1: Countdown to papal Twitter launch 745
2: Meeting of the Popes 431
3: Enter the electors 329
4: The fall of Cardinal Piacenza 318
5: Continuity – Pope Francis’ coat of arms 214
6: Church teachings – the clash between authority and respect 147
7: ‘Bel Giorgio’ takes over the household 82
8: First Sunday – the Dutch cardinals in Rome 80
9: Holy Week 2013, an overview of cathedral celebrations 79
10: The seagull vigil 77
March has been crazy as far as the blog was concerned. I write these words in my free time, which is not always available in abundance. If you like what you read here, and appreciate the information I try to provide and keep as up to date as possible, think of making a donation to this blog’s upkeep. You will find a PayPal donation button in the left sidebar, and also below. Any donor can count on prayers and much appreciation from my part, and will contribute to a continued Catholic voice in new media.
The cardinals have wrapped up their final General Congregation and we are now only one day away from the big event. And to think that only one month ago Pope Benedict surprised us all with his announcement that he would abdicate. It’s been quite the ride.
Now to look forward to the coming days. In his blog - a companion piece to that great resource GCatholic.com – Gabriel Chow presents the main events of the conclave. Apart from tomorrow, a typical conclave day will consist of four voting rounds – the “scrutinies” or ballots.
Tomorrow, the first day of the conclave, is taken up by several preparatory events. In the early morning the cardinals will move from their current lodgings all over Rome to the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where they will live throughout the conclave. Rooms were assigned by lot. At left a view of the simple suites available to the cardinals.
At 10am tomorrow, the cardinals, electors and non-electors alike, will offer a Mass “Pro eligendo Romano Pontifice”, or for the election of the Roman Pontiff. The Dean of the College, Angelo Cardinal Sodano will give the homily and the Mass will be chiefly in Italian. The booklet for the celebration is available here.
Tomorrow afternoon, the cardinals will head to the Pauline chapel in the Apostolic palace. At 4:30pm, they will walk to the Sistine Chapel, where they will all take the oath and the first round of voting will take place. The cardinals will be seated according to precedence, as they have during the General Congregations, but they will enter the Sistine Chapel in reverse order. This means that James Cardinal Harvey, the junior Cardinal Deacon will be first, and Giovanni Cardinal Re will close the line. Dutch Cardinal Wim Eijk will be fairly forward in the line, after the 30 Cardinal-Deacons and 8 Cardinal-Priests that come after him in precedence. Immediately preceding and following him are Cardinals Betori and Duka. At right, a photo of workmen readying the Sistine Chapel for the conclave.
The long form of the oath, as presented below, will be recited by all cardinals together. Each cardinal will then come forward and, with his hand on the Gospels, confirm the oath.
“We, the Cardinal electors present in this election of the Supreme Pontiff promise, pledge and swear, as individuals and as a group, to observe faithfully and scrupulously the prescriptions contained in the Apostolic Constitution of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, Universi Dominici Gregis, published on 22 February 1996. We likewise promise, pledge and swear that whichever of us by divine disposition is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying out the munus Petrinum of Pastor of the Universal Church and will not fail to affirm and defend strenuously the spiritual and temporal rights and the liberty of the Holy See. In a particular way, we promise and swear to observe with the greatest fidelity and with all persons, clerical or lay, secrecy regarding everything that in any way relates to the election of the Roman Pontiff and regarding what occurs in the place of the election, directly or indirectly related to the results of the voting; we promise and swear not to break this secret in any way, either during or after the election of the new Pontiff, unless explicit authorization is granted by the same Pontiff; and never to lend support or favour to any interference, opposition or any other form of intervention, whereby secular authorities of whatever order and degree or any group of people or individuals might wish to intervene in the election of the Roman Pontiff.”
“And I, N. Cardinal N., do so promise, pledge and swear. So help me God and these Holy Gospels which I touch with my hand.”
Unlike I mentioned before, the “extra omnes!” will then be called by the Papal Master of Ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini, and the doors be closed. Only then, will Cardinal Grech address the cardinals “concerning the grave duty incumbent on them and thus on the need to act with right intention for the good of the Universal Church”.
The first vote can then take place, although this is optional. The first ballot may be postponed to Wednesday. It is expected that the cardinal will pray Vespers together at 7 and return to the Domus Sanctae Marthae half an hour later.
We will most likely see the first puff of smoke – if there has been a vote – from the chimney at 8pm, and no one expects it to be anything else than black.
Part of the events, such as the Mass, the walk to the Sistine Chapel and the chimney smoke can be viewed live via the Vatican player. I will share any other means of watching the proceedings via Twitter as they become available.
Photo credit:  Fr. Tim Finigan,  Vatican Radio
In a sede vacante, nothing, it seems, is permanent, not even the daily running of the Holy See. While Cardinals Bertone and Sodano, as Camerlengo and Dean of the College of Cardinals respectively, have certain specific duties, these do not extend as far as the duties that a Pope or the Curia in normal circumstances would have. We are all waiting, in this period, for normalcy to resume, but for that we need a visible head, a new Supreme Pontiff.
In the meantime, starting this morning, the cardinals are presented with the current affairs in the Church during their General Congregations and if a situation calls for it they can act together, or task one of their own to perform his duties as he would when there is a Pope. In the case of Cardinal Bertone, he is aided by three cardinals, one each from the orders of bishops, priests and deacons, in managing the Holy See. These three cardinals are appointed for three days only, another indication of the impermanence of their authority. For the first three-day period, which started yesterday and will end tomorrow, the names of Cardinals Giovanni Re, Crescenzio Sepe and Franc Rode were drawn by lot.
The actual decisions and actions undertaken during the General Congregations, and of course the conclave, are subject to an oath of secrecy that the cardinals made yesterday morning. Cardinal Wilfrid Napier (pictured above with Cardinal Collins before the start of the first Congregation), who is perhaps the most active tweeting cardinal at the moment, told his followers this morning: “Given that Pledge of Confidentiality covers matters discussed in General Congregations, only very general comments can be made. Keep praying.” Several cardinals have already shut down their Twitter account or gone radio silent until after the conclave. A full list of twittering cardinals can be found here.
But in the meantime, while much may get done, we are still awaiting the arrival of the final cardinal electors. Only after they arrive can a date for the conclave be decided upon. Until then, with the final arrived expected to be Hong Kong’s Cardinal John Tong Hon sometime tomorrow, the cardinals will continue meeting once a day in the morning.
Photo credit: l’Osservatore Romano
In the middle of the month we had the momentous announcement and we ended up with the actual vacant see of Rome. With 10,148 page views, I am happy to see that my thoughts about this historic period in the Church were read and appreciated by many. Readers from The Spectator in the UK found their way here (nice to see you here!), as did many others via blogs and social media. Fr. Roderick’s sharing my blog post about the Pope’s last general audience also caused a spike in the page views, so thanks very much for that!
Anyway, on to the top 10, which may be a bit different than expected.
1: Cardinal watch: Cardinal Arinze turns 80 251
2: Countdown to papal Twitter launch 145
3: Boodschap voor de Vastentijd 2013 102
4: The pope who resigned – St. Celestine V 98
5: ‘Bel Giorgio’ takes over the household 91
6: One cardinal stays at home – Indonesia’s Darmaatmadja not attending the conclave 89
7: Distancing – how not to disagree & Risky business – German bishops allow abortive drugs, but only when they’re not abortive 83
8: The final farewell 80
9: Obsession, but on whose part? 75
10: The bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer – a first step? 70
Every year at the start of Lent, the Pope and the Roman Curia go on a weeklong retreat. They don’t go anywhere, but remain at the Vatican in prayer and reflection, and all appointments and regular duties are postponed. Every retreat is led by a prelate personally chosen by the Holy Father, and this year the honour fell to the President of the Pontifical of Council of Culture, and a papabile himself, Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi (pictured at left, with the Holy Father in the background, in the seclusion of retreat).
What makes this retreat different is that Cardinal Ravasi not only offers reflections on the prayer of the Psalms to the prelates on retreat, but also to all the faithful. He has been tweeting short quotes and Vatican Radio has been posting summaries of his talks.
These days, leading up to the conclave, it is very interesting to be able to read and reflect on the theological thoughts of one of the cardinal electors, but, perhaps more importantly, it also offers us a guide through this important season of the Church year. A week in, it is perhaps good to ask: “How is your Lent going?”
Cardinal Ravasi’s tweets may offer us a hint of where to start. Short as they are, they can not offer very deep and detailed reflections, but they may point the way, so to speak. Let’s take a look at some and use them to reflect on our own life in the faith. I have put some tweets together, since they clearly form one line of thought.
“1st Meditation: breathe, think, struggle, love: the verbs of prayer. Prayer is not just emotion, it must be reason and will, reflection and passion, truth and action. Not just “speaking about” God, but “speaking to” God, in a dialogue in which we look lovingly at each other in the eye.”
“The longest of the Psalms (Ps 119) invites us to listen to the divine Word present in the Bible. In the verses of Ps 119 we can hear the love for this Word which shines even in the darkness of existence.”
“3rd Meditation: The song of the twofold sun: the Creator God. Psalm 19. The high and impressive silences of the starry heavens are symbolically broken by the song of faith. Biblical faith does not see space as a neutral thing, but as an epiphanic horizon, where God is present. Authentic ascesis is not only negation, it is also harmony between bodiliness and interiority; renouncing and practice for genuine fullness. The word of God irradiates its splendour in the horizon of the conscience, melting our coldness and spreading light and hope. Before creation in its richness, we can raise our thanksgiving to God for our existence and for so many marvels.”
“Our journey becomes a real pilgrimage towards the “meeting tent”, the sanctuary in its sacred culmination. The divine Person is there, manifesting himself, speaking and embracing the faithful. “As an eagle watching its nest, flying over its offspring, the Lord unfolded his wings, took him and raised him up” (Dt 32).”
“The great gestures of God’s love: creation; exodus from Egypt, sign of liberation and hope for a people experience of the desert guided by a pastor who protects from every natural and historical danger, and the journey towards freedom. We consider the Lord as an ally, a strong and loving companion on our journey.”
“Son of God, priest and just: these three features of the messianic figure at the centre of the psalms we meditate. The prophets criticised the prevarications of power and indifference in the face of injustice. God is the advocate for the undefended, the “father of the poor and defender of widows” (Ps 68,6). Before us shines the face of the Messiah, the Christ of God.”
In a series of Tweets yesterday, the former secretary of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (the de facto head of that church community), announced that he was “done with the pretense of the Catholic Church. I see her as a church among churches and freely take part in the Eucharist”.
Dr. Bas Plaisier, who today works as a teacher at a Lutheran seminary in Hong Kong, was the scriba of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands until 2008.
In his statement on Twitter, which was met with both praise and criticism, Dr. Plaisier presumably means to say that he attends Holy Mass (which he is of course very welcome to do) and also receives Communion. He supports this action by saying that many Catholics agree with him and that what matters is who you invite. “And in that respect teachings or church do not matter”.
The Catholic Church invites, to use Dr. Plaisier’s words, those to Communion who are not only in a state of grace, but who also live according to and agree with the faith of the Church. Part of that faith is the consecration: the bread and wine truly becoming the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Protestant churches generally do not share that faith and can therefore not receive Communion. For, in addition to building community in Christ, Communion is also a confession of our faith. By receiving the Body and Blood of Christ we basically express our faith in God, and our intention of following all His teachings that come to us via His Church.
In the Protestant Church of Dr. Plaisier, the Last Supper does share similarities with the Eucharist in that is a communal meal. But in the Protestant service, bread and wine remain bread and wine. That is something that Protestant agree with. Leftover bread can be fed to the ducks and leftover wine may be poured down the sink. That is unheard of in the Catholic Church, as any leftover bread and wine are the physical Lord and must therefore be treated with due reverence.
With his statements, Dr. Plaisier does a great disservice to ecumenism. He basically tells the Protestant Churches’ main partner in ecumenism, at least in the Netherlands, that her teachings and faith don’t matter to him. His own opinion and feeling becomes decisive. Dr. Plaisier is a Protestant, and very obviously does not believe in the transsubstation. But is that reason to take the most precious treasure of the Church, Our Lord Himself, and receive Him without agreeing with what He teaches us? That is tantamount to saying, “Lord, that’s all nice what you are saying, but I know better than you, and will simply do what I think is best.”
The Catholic Church is very emphatically not a church among churches. The Protestant church communities are not a church in the way that the Catholic Church is, and the faith the express and share differs in important ways from the faith that has been preserved through the ages in the Catholic Church. We can’t water that faith down by saying that important things, such as the Eucharist, do not really matter, that what matters is that people feel welcome. Of course people should feel welcome, and we should do our best to make them feel welcome. But does that mean that we should bend every which way to do so, to even ignore or change our very identity to make things easier?
People, Protestant or otherwise, are very welcome to come to a Catholic Church, to attend Mass, to pray with Catholics. They are not free to take Catholic teachings and faith and change them to suit their perceived needs. That is deeply insulting for the host (both human and divine) and makes the human person, not God, the decisive factor in such matters. And when it comes to God, we do not decide. He does.
Photo credit: Gerard van Rhoon