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As the year of Our Lord 2011 draws to a close, I happily join the ranks of the countless media channels creating overviews of the years past. And both for this blog, as well as the Catholic Church in the Netherlands and abroad, it has been a tumultuous year, both positive and negative. Taking this blog as the goggles we use to look back, blog, Church and wider world become unavoidably intertwined, but, in a way, that is how it should be.

In January, we saw the announcement of the beatification of Pope John Paul II, the resignation of Rotterdam’s Bishop Ad van Luyn being accepted, and the launch of Blessed Titus Brandsma’s Twitter adventure.

February was the month of interesting considerations by Bishop Schneider about Vatican II, shocking new developments in the abuse crisis, the announcement of a undeservedly short-lived experiment with the Extraordinary Form in the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, the first signs that all is not well in Belgium, but also three new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels, and the vacancy of Berlin.

March brought us disturbing news about Bishop Cor Schilder, an extensive message for Lent from the Dutch bishops, disaster in Japan, the announcement of a great ecumenical media project for Easter, and the annual Stille Omgang in Amsterdam.

April: the month of the consecration of Bishops Kockerols, Lemmens and Hudsyn, the first EF Mass in Groningen’s cathedral, further attempts at repressing religious freedom in the Netherlands, the bishops of Belgium uniting in shock to further improprieties from Roger Vangheluwe, the pope’s birthday, further personal attacks against Archbishop Eijk and the first preparations for Madrid.

In May we saw and read about the death of Bin Laden, the beatification of John Paul II, the first Vatican blogmeet, the appointment of Bishop van den Hende to Rotterdam, the publication of Universae Ecclesiae, a prayer answered, a papal visit to Venice, enraging comments from the Salesian superior in the Netherlands, and subsequent press releases from the Salesian Order.

June was the month of papal comments about new evangelisation and sacred music, the end of EF Masses in Groningen, the pope visiting Croatia, a new bishop in Görlitz, Bishop van Luyn’s farewell to Rotterdam, advice on financial compensation for abuse victims, Archbishop Eijk taking over as president of the Dutch bishops’ conference, and the death of Cardinal Sterzinsky.

In July, Bishop Rainer Woelki went to Berlin, there was more preparation for Madrid, Bishop van den Hende was installed as bishop of Rotterdam, the pope visited San Marino, Luxembourg received a new archbishop, Bootcamp 2011 took place, Bishop Liesen appeared on EWTN, Blessed Titus Brandsma ended his Twitter adventure, and the crimes of Anders Breivik hit home for Dutch Catholics.

August was a big month because of the World Youth Days in Madrid, but we also learned about Archbishop Dolan’s explanation of the Vatican, freedom of conscience being curtailed, the 100,000th visitor of this blog, and the Liempde affair exploding in the media.

In September, the official website of the Dutch Church got a make-over, Archbishop Eijk wrote a thankyou note to the participants of the WYD, The Dutch bishops’ conference shuffled their responsibilities, and Pope Benedict visited Germany and delivered an important address to the Bundestag.

October, then, saw a successful reunion of the WYD troupe, Bishop Mutsaerts’ intervention in the ultra-liberal San Salvator parish, the bishops declining a proposal to Protestantise the Church, the consecration of Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, the publication of Porta Fidei and the announcement of a Year of Faith, the appointment of a new Dutch ambassador to the Holy See, the appointment of Msgr. Hendriks as auxiliary bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam, the first Night of Mary, and Assisi 2011.

In November, Cardinal Burke came to Amsterdam, the bishops accept and put into action a plan for financial compensation for victims of sexual abuse, the Peijnenburg affair made headlines, the pope went to Benin and heartwarmingly spoke to children, priests in Belgium tempted excommunication, Cardinal Simonis turned 80, Bishop Liesen became the new bishop of Breda, and a fifty-year-old letter showed that congregations new about abuse happening in their ranks.

This final month of December, then, saw the first fifty victims of sexual abuse being able to claim financial compensation, the presentation of plans for Metropolis 2012, Nuncio Bacqué’s retirement, the consecration of Bishop Jan Hendriks, pain and horror in Liège, the appointment of Archbishop André Dupuy as new Nuncio, and the publication of the Deetman report unleashing emotional reactions everywhere.

It’s been quite the year, but one with much to be thankful for. The truth sets us free seems especially apt in this final month, but can be applied to the entire year. May 2012 be equally open, honest, but also full of blessings for the Church, the people and everyone of us.

Thank you, readers, for the continued interest. That’s incentive to keep on doing what I do here.

A happy new year, and may God bless you all.

With two posts in the past week, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi has become the first cardinal in the Roman Curia with a personal blog. Like the cardinal’s Twitter account, the blog is written in Italian, but it can be quite easily read by using an online translator.

In his first post, Cardinal Ravasi explains his choice to take up blogging: “I have no intention of abandoning print, but the need to reach the younger generation, composed of highly skilled navigators of the “Internet Galaxy”, the digital natives, pushes me to face, with enthusiasm and creativity , this new adventure.”

The use of the words ‘Internet galaxy’ (galassia internet) reflect the Holy Father’s description of a ‘digital continent’, which he has used on a number of occasion. The cardinal and the pope seem, at first sight, to be on the same page when it comes to the use of social media.

Of particular interest may be Cardinal Ravasi’s work in the ‘Courtyard of the Gentiles’, a series of regular meetings and encounters with non-believers. In his latest blog post, the cardinal in fact writes that he is off to Bucharest to one such meeting, and that he intends to write about his experiences in the coming days.

68-year-old Cardinal Ravasi is the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and has worked, for one, with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications to organise last May’s first Vatican blogmeet. He is no stranger to blogging, then.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

Keep an eye out today for the much-anticipated launch of the new Vatican news site. From the sneak preview that came online last week, it would seem that News.va combines most of the (social) media – l’Osservatore Romano, Vatican Radio, video streams and recordings, Flickr, the Vatican Information Service, and so on – used by the Vatican into one place. Pope Benedict XVI will officially open the website, which was first heralded at the Vatican blogmeet in May, tomorrow.

Part of the new homepage of vatican.va

One of the oldest virtually unchanged websites out there is finally getting a makeover, and although it’s happening step by step in conjunction with the release of a new news site, the changes on the Vatican website do look promising.

The changes have been expected since about a year ago, and when the forthcoming release of news.va, a comprehensive and official news site of the Holy See, was announced at the recent Vatican blogmeet, it was expected to be arriving any day now. But, as the old adage goes, the Church thinks in centuries, so new developments often take a bit longer than needed. But the changes are becoming visible now.

I like the new layout of the homepage. The main focus is the Holy Father and his various publications; as a blogger, I frequently make use of those, so their prominent accessibility is a definite plus. The pages about the various Curial departments and news outlets are also easily found, as is a link to the aforementioned news.va at the top right. The focus column at the left, then, features information on several high-profile topics: the pope’s pastoral visits and, at this time, information about the abuse crisis.

As far as I have found, no other pages have been released in a new layout, but I expect that is only a matter of time. Improved accessibility is already a good development.

Yesterday’s Vatican blogmeet – the second major event (from a blogger’s point of view) in as many days – seems to have been a success. I was unable to follow the live feed provided by SQPN’s Fr. Roderick, but my Twitter timeline was swamped with tweets hashtagged #vbm11 (for Vatican Blogmeet 2011).

From that flood of information (evidence, with the coverage of Sunday’s beatification and the death of Osama bin Laden that Twitter is a serious contender for providing rapid news as it happens) I gather that there have been several important elements to the whole bloggers’ meeting.

One of them is the very welcome positive attitude from Church officials towards the blogging community. Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican press chief, spoke about the importance of service over ego when blogging, but also indicated that the Vatican is listening. He himself spends some time every morning readings several blogs, to prepare for what the day may bring. He also expressed gratefulness to Catholic bloggers who sprung into action when the regular media distorts Church developments. An example is the hubbub around Pope Benedict’s perceived permittance of the use of condoms. Before the Vatican could come with clarifications, Catholic bloggers made sure to correct the media reports and explain what the Holy Father had really said.

Related to that, Thomas Peters (the American Papist) asked why blogs could not be included among the Vatican’s accredited media, so that certain selected bloggers could receive advance copies of important documents and publications, just like newspapers and other media do now. A very valid question, I would think.

The Vatican itself also seems to be moving forward in social media. An advance view of a new news site (www. news.va) triggered much positive comments. I don’t know when that is supposed to be up and running, but a new Vatican news website would be very welcome.

The results of this first blogmeet (I say ‘first’, because I get the impression that several participants would like to see this become an annual event) will become more clear over the course of the coming weeks and months. It will be interesting to see the developments on both sides; will the sense of community in the blogosphere increase in a spirit of service, and will the Vatican, through the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Social Communications make more and more effective use of this enormous resource? And how will the latter take shape? The measure of involvement of local bishops’ conferences and Church communities is still up in the air.

Fr. Roderick Vonhögen participated in the first panel and spoke of how he, as a simple parish priest from the Netherlands, reaches an audience of thousands through social media.

Rocco Palmo moderated the first panel

Father Federico Lombardi spoke about the attitudes of Catholic bloggers during the second panel: service should prevail over ego.

Photo credits: intermirifica.net

The trend begun in March continued in April. With a nice round 5,900  to the blog, April 2011 is the best month since I began blogging (not counting the crazy peak of July 2010 of course). Here are the 10 most popular blog posts, with number 1 largely thanks to it having been picked up by the New Liturgical Movement. The post about the Stations of the Cross is an oldie from Lent 2010, but it’s fun to see it serving such a purpose this year once more. As for the rest, of course Blessed John Paul II played a major role, as did Archbishop Eijk and former bishop Vangheluwe.

1: First EF Mass in Groningen off to a good start 354
2: The Stations of the Cross 159
3: Blessed John Paul II 99
4: 22 October picked as feast day of Blessed John Paul II 76
5: Belgian bishops speak up against Vangheluwe 74
6: A bishop punished too mildly? 70
7: Pope to rein in Abp. Eijk? Not likely when this is the best proof against him 60
8: To be prepared 46
9: A new archbishop for the Celtic fringe 44
10: The list is out 38

The Pontifical Council for Social Communications released the list of 150 bloggers selected for the first official Vatican blogmeet today. It is, as desired from the onset, an international selection of people writing from various perspectives and with various blogging goals. There are lay bloggers like me, clergy and proper journalists as well. Many are unknown to me, but it’s nice to see a fair number of familiar names.

So, congratulations to Anna Arco, Eric van den Berg, Lisa Hendey, Paolo Rodari, Rocco Palmo, Father Roderick Vonhögen, Sandro Magister, Thomas Peters and the 142 other bloggers invited. It’ll be interesting to see what comes out of this first heart-to-heart of the Church with denizens of the blogosphere.

Anna Arco of the Catholic Herald reports the following message from the Pontifical Council for Social Communications regarding the Vatican blogmeet of 2 May:

Dear Friends
By 8am Monday morning we had received over 400 requests.. On Wednesday 13 April we will close the application process and sort out requests into categories of language, geography, typology etc. and where necessary we will draw lots to make the final selection. On Saturday a list of participants will be posted on http://www.pccs.va. We are heartened by the widespread interest, and ask you all to be patient with this effort to increase dialogue with the blogging community, and also to support us with your prayers.

Richard Rouse and Ariel Beramendi

It looks like the blogmeet, despite it being announced rather late, has garnered much interest in a pretty short time. As I wrote earlier, only about 150 people will be able to attend, and it’ll be interesting to see who will be selected to participate.

In the meantime, various Catholic bloggers are organising The *Other* Rome Blognic on the afternoon of 3 May. As far as I understand it, the reason for an alternate blogmeet is the fear that the so-called ‘Taliban Catholics’ won’t be heard or selected for the official meeting. This second blogmeet is presented as one that will be fun and that will actually be about something, essentially a meeting that will matter. In my eyes, it’s a rather premature conclusion to draw that only moderate bloggers will be invited to the official blogmeet, while those that tackle the difficult questions and are sometimes critical about Church leadership and policies will be ignored. And, added to that, I think that the official meeting should be embraced and supported by all bloggers, exactly because it is among the first tentative steps of the Vatican into the blogosphere. Hosting an alternate meeting will hardly do much good towards creating a unified blogging community working with the Church.

About this blog

I am a Dutch Catholic from the north of the Netherlands. In this blog I wish to provide accurate information on current affairs in the Church and the relation with society. It is important for Catholics to have knowledge about their own faith and Church, especially since these are frequently misrepresented in many places. My blog has two directions, although I use only English in my writings: on the one hand, I want to inform Dutch faithful - hence the presence of a page with Dutch translations of texts which I consider interesting or important -, and on the other hand, I want to inform the wider world of what is going on in the Church in the Netherlands.

It is sometimes tempting to be too negative about such topics. I don't want to do that: my approach is an inherently positive one, and loyal to the Magisterium of the Church. In many quarters this is an unfamiliar idea: criticism is often the standard approach to the Church, her bishops and priests and other representatives. I will be critical when that is warranted, but it is not my standard approach.

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

Copyright

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

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

Blog and media

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

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

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

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

Latest translations added:

27 November: [English] Bishop Johan Bonny - Advent letter 2014

27 November: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Toespraak voor het Europees Parlement.

25 November: [English] Bishop Gerard de Korte - Advent letter 2014.

17 November: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Toespraak voor de conferentie over de complementariteit tussen man en vrouw.

10 November: [English] Pope Francis - Letter to the Church of the Frisians.

22 October: [English] Bishop Gerard de Korte - The doctrine of the Church must always be actualised.

9 October: [English] Godfried Cardinal Danneels - Intervention at the Synod.

3 October: [English] Bishop Gerard de Korte - A ministry of mercy.

26 September: [English] Bishop Rob Mutsaerts - The Synod will not be about the divorced and remarried.

6 August: [English] Pope Francis - Address to German altar servers.

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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.

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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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