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He led a diocese for less than four hours, but Bishop Manfred Melzer probably won’t lose any sleep over it. It is simply standard procedure in Cologne: as the archbishop retires, leadership of the archdiocese falls automatically to the most senior auxiliary bishop. Until, that is, the cathedral chapter has picked a diocesan administrator, and they didn’t take very long to do that. Vicar General Msgr. Stefan Heβe (pronounced “Hesse”) (pictured at right) runs the ongoing affairs of the archdiocese until Pope Francis confirms the election of a successor to Cardinal Joachim Meisner, who retired today after 25 years, two months and a few days at the head of one of Germany’s oldest sees.
In 1988, Cardinal Meisner came to Cologne from Berlin, 14 months after the death of Cardinal Joseph Höffner. Today he becomes the first archbishop of Cologne in almost 129 years to retire, and he does so at the almost unprecedented age of 80. Cologne now joins three other German dioceses – Erfurt, Passau and Freiburg in Breisgau – which are also still awaiting a new bishop, in the case of the former two since October of 2012.
Cardinal Meisner leaves Cologne in the hands of diocesan administrator Msgr. Heβe, and Auxiliary Bishops Melzer, Dominik Schwaderlapp and Ansgar Puff. The diocesan administrator now had the duty to collect an expansive report on the state of the archdiocese and send that to the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic. In the meantime, the see of Cologne is Sede vacante nihil innovetur, in other words, while there is no new bishop, no changes may be made. In other respects, Msgr. Heβe has the same rights and duties as a diocesan bishop.
The Archdiocese of Cologne, or Köln as it is properly called, is the second oldest in Germany (only Trier is older), dating back to the year 200, and once dominated the western part of modern Germany as well as major parts of the Low Countries. The Dioceses of Roermond (Netherlands), Magdeburg, Aachen and Essen (Germany) and parts of Liège (Belgium) were at one time or another all part of Cologne.
The archbishops of Cologne were powerful men, in that rather German way that they were both spiritual and worldly leaders, being electors of the Holy Roman Empire. Today, while not the primatial see of Germany, Cologne remains important, being the largest diocese in number of faithful (some 2 million) and covering a significant part of the Industrial Ruhr area and including the major cities of Cologne, Bonn (former capital city of West Germany) and Düsseldorf. Cologne has produced 10 cardinals and 7 ordinaries who were declared saints.
Joachim Meisner was born on Christmas Day 1933, in what is now Wroclaw in Poland, but at the time the city of Breslau in Germany, which was rapidly falling into the clutches of the Nazis. Having lived through the war as a child and young teenager, Joachim Meisner ultimately became a priest of the Diocese of Fulda in 1962, days before his 29th birthday. In 1975, he was appointed as Auxiliary Bishop of the Apostolic Administration of Erfurt-Meiningen, which has been established only two years before (tensions between communist East Germany and the Holy See meant that the former had almost no full-fledged dioceses). Bishop Meisner was also given the titular see of Vina. In 1980, he became the bishop of Berlin, which, because of the aforementioned tensions, was not yet an archdiocese. Bishop Meisner stayed there for eight years, being created a cardinal in 1983, before being called to Cologne in 1980 (a poster welcoming his arrival is pictured at left).
Coinciding with his retirement, Cardinal Meisner published his final Lenten letter, which is also a farewell to his archdiocese and the faithful for whom he was pastorally responsible. He concludes the letter as follows:
Dear Sisters, dear Brothers,
I was allowed to serve you as Archbishop of Cologne for a quarter of a century. I have always wanted to testify to the peace of God and bring this across to you, since it is the strength of our hope. I thank you once again from my heart for all the strength which I found in that and beg you all very much for your forgiveness when my service were not a source of strength, but perhaps a source of irritation. The Lord will complete everything which was only fragmentary in my service. I will remain – God willing – among you until the hour of my death and will now have more time to pray for you all, and bring all your concerns and hopes to the heart of God.
The all-powerful God bless you all, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!”
And now? The Archdiocese of Cologne has already started the process of selecting a new archbishop by appointing a diocesan administrator. Possible candidates will now be chosen by several entities, all according to the Concordat that the Holy See signed in 1929 with Prussia, the state of which Cologne was then a part. Among these entities are Archbishop Eterovic (pictured) as the Papal Nuncio; the bishops of the other dioceses which were part of Prussia: Aachen, Berlin, Erfurt, Essen, Fulda, Görlitz, Hamburg, Hildesheim, Limburg, Magdeburg, Münster, Osnabrück, Paderborn and Trier; and the cathedral chapter of Cologne.
The Nuncio will then collect all proposed candidates and will create a list of three candidates which he considers the best choices. This so-called terna will be added to the other proposals and sent to Rome, where the Congregation for Bishops will draft its own terna based on the information provided. The list will then go to the Pope, who will either confirm it, or make some changes of his own. Then, the list goes back to the cathedral chapter of Cologne.
The cathedral chapter will elect the new archbishop from final terna. Voting continues until one candidate has an absolute majority of votes (at least 8 out of 15). After three voting rounds, only the two candidates who got the most votes continue. If all candidates have five votes after the second round, only the two oldest candidates continue on. For the fourth round of voting a simple majority is sufficient. Do both candidates still have the same amount of votes, the oldest candidate is elected.
After a new archbishop is elected, the governments of the States of Nordrhein-Westfalen and Rheinland-Pfalz can voice political concerns against the elected. The Nuncio must seek and obtain the permission of the elected for this. Once the governments agree, the Pope officially appoints the new archbishop.
In the Diocese of Roermond today, Bishop Frans Wiertz officially closed the diocesan phase of the case of Limburg-born Bishop Frans Schraven. The paperwork, documenting the bishop’s life and the reasons for a possible future beatification, is now to be sent to Rome, where the Congregation for the Causes of Saints will eventually present it to Pope Francis, who has the final say about what will happen next. The file includes the proposal to declare Bishop Schraven a martyr, which negates the need for a miracle before his beatification.
Franciscus Hubertus Schraven was born in Lottum, Diocese of Roermond, in 1873. At the age of 21 he joined the Congregation of the Mission, in which he was ordained a deacon (1898) and a priest (1899). In that year he departed Marseille for China, and in 1920 he was appointed as Vicar Apostolic of Southwestern Chi-Li in China, and consecrated bishop with the titular see of Amyclae. He led the community which is now the Diocese of Zhengding until 1937, when he died at the hands of Japanese troops engaged in the lengthy war with China that led into the Second World War in Asia.
On 9 October 1937 the Japanese conquered the city of Zhengding where Bishop Schraven was responsible for the protection of some 4,000 refugees, mostly women and children. As the soldiers plundered the city and killed and raped at will. At length, the Japanese authorities demanded that Bishop Schraven hand over some women to fill the soldiers’ need for “comfort”, in other words, to serve as sex slaves. The bishop refused. In the evening of the day that the city fell, Bishop Schraven and nine priests were arrested and deported by truck. It took until 1973 before their fate was discovered: they had been burnt alive on a pyre…
In his homily today, Bishop Wiertz spoke the following words about Bishop Schraven:
“Someone who found out firsthand what it means to follow Jesus, is Monsignor Schraven, for whom we are gathered today. Because of his refusal to supply comfort girls, he chose in favour of a human existence for some one Thousand women. He chose against seeing women as objects, as commodities. With that he also chose for a literal following of Jesus.
When Bishop Schraven met with the Japanese soldiers, he must have realised what the risks of his position were. He literally told the commander, “You may kill me if you want, but giving you what you want, never!” A courageous attitude, which fits completely with what he wrote earlier that year to his family here in Limburg: “Essential is that we are ready when God calls us”.
Sometimes it becomes clear that – surprisingly enough – different times have the exact same needs. Bishop Schraven resisted sexual abuse of women. In many places in the world this sort of abuse still takes place. As Church, as faithful people, it is our task to resist that in the name of Jesus.
In recent years there has been much to do about abuse by people of the Church herself. It was shameful to find that faithful were guilty of something like that. Bishop Schraven shows us that in the Church there have also Always been people who chose the good side, who condemned abuse and even gave their own lives if need be. In Monsignor Schraven we have an example of someone who radically stood up for the protection of girls and women from sexual violence.
Where we are able to support efforts who aim to do the same, we, as Church, can’t fail to do so. We are obliged to do so in Jesus’ Holy Name. Hopefully we are soon able to invoke the intercession of Blessed Bishop Schraven, who gave his own life in imitation of Jesus in the fight against the abuse of people.”
His episcopal motto, taken from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, was “Christ is Yes”. Two days ago, Bishop Bernhard Rieger returned to that eternal positive confirmation, as he passed away in the quiet of the small town of Kressbronn on the shores of Lake Constance, south Germany, the place where he retired to in 1996.
Bernhard Rieger was born in 1922 in central Baden and reached adulthood as World War II broke out. This marked his late teens and early twenties, as he was drafted into the Labour Service, and later into the Wehrmacht. Until the end of the war, Rieger served as soldier and wireless operator on both the Eastern and the Western Fronts, and was taken prisoner of war by the Allies in France. There, he entered the so-called “barbed wire seminary” in Chartres. There he met the Nuncio to France, Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, who would later become Pope John XXIII. Returning to Germany, Rieger studied theology in Tübingen and was ordained to the priesthood in 1951 by Bishop Carl Joseph Leiprecht of Rottenburg.
For most of his years as priest, Father Rieger worked as a parish priest throughout the Diocese of Rottenburg, and also as teacher of religion, advising the bishop on matters of education. In 1975, Fr. Rieger was appointed to the cathedral chapter and the priest council, and from 1977 onward, he held the title of Monsignor.
In 1984, Msgr. Rieger was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart (the diocese had had a change of name in 1978), with the titular see of Tigava. Within the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Rieger was a member of the media commission.
In 1996, Blessed Pope John Paul II accepted his resignation, and Bishop Rieger retired to the shores of Lake Constance.
Photo credit: Wolfgang Kirchherr
No April Fool’s joke, the announcement made by Father Leendert Spijkers on Easter Sunday: granted by Pope Benedict XVI back in February, the 15th century church of St. Peter in Oirschot, Diocese of ’s Hertogenbosch is to be elevated to the status of basilica minor. Bishop Antoon Hurkmans will make the official declaration some time in the summer, making it his diocese’s fourth basilica.
The church of St. Peter in Oirschot dates from 1515, replacing its predecessor which had burned down in 1462. From 1648 to 1799 the church was Protestant, and it wasn’t until 1904 that the local parish regained full ownership of church and tower. In the war, the tower was severely damaged from Allied gunfire, and it took until 1952 for restorations to be completed. The church is one of the largest remaining Gothic village churches in the province of North Brabant. The furnishings are partly original and partly taken from demolished churches with the altars dating from around 1700 and 1766 respectively. The church has been a national monument since 1966.
Age and a certain esthetic value are but two elements which can make a church a basilica. Another, and certainly not the least important, is the presence of a certain devotion within an active parish community. In the case of St. Peter’s, that devotion is to the ‘Holy Oak’.
The story goes that, some time in the early 15th century, two shepherds found a statue of the Blessed Virgin on the banks of the Beerze stream. They placed it an oak, but inhabitants of nearby Middelbeers took the statue and put it in their church. The next morning, though, the statue was back in the oak. Villagers of Oirschot came to venerate the statue, and there were reports of miraculous healings.
A chapel was built on the place of the oak, and an annual procession developed to that spot. Oak and chapel were removed in 1649, but a new chapel (view of the interior pictured) was erected in 1854, on the foundations of the old one. The original statue resides in St. Peter’s, but a replica remains at the chapel. Some 250,000 pilgrims and visitors find their way to Mary of the Holy Oak every year.
Photo credit:  Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed,  Parish of St. Peter, Oirschot
Amid the unprecedented events of yesterday, regular things continue, including a cardinal exchanging the temporal for the eternal. Jean Cardinal Honoré passed away yesterday afternoon at the age of 92.
He was ordained a priest in the middle of the Second World War for the Diocese of Rennes, France. In the first years of his priesthood, Fr. Honoré taught in both Rennes and Saint-Malo, as well as at the local seminary. From 1958 to 1964 he was secretary general of the National Commission for Religious Education and director of the National Centre of Religious Teaching. He then became rector of the Catholic University of Angers, and in 1972 he was appointed as bishop of Évreux. Nine years later, in 1981, he became Archbishop of Tours. After his retirement in 1997, Archbishop Honoré was created a cardinal in 2001. He was cardinal-priest of Santa Maria della Salute a Primavalle.
Considered a specialist on Blessed Cardinal Newman, he took his episcopal motto from him: cor ad cor loquitur, heart speaks unto heart.
Cardinal Honoré was not in Rome to greet the Pope, but died in his home in Tours.
In the last such event before the sede vacante begins, Ukrainian Lubomyr Cardinal Husar marks his 80th birthday today, and as such can not take part in the conclave.
Born in Lviv, which at the time was a Polish city, in 1933, young Lubomyr’s childhood was marked by the violence of World War II. In 1944, this caused his parents to flee to the west. After some years in Salzburg in Austria, the family emigrated to the United States in 1949. A year later, Lubomyr started studying at the Ukrainian Catholic St. Basil College Seminary in Stamford, Connecticut. After time at the Catholic University of America and Fordham University, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1958. Fr. Husar was a priest for the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford, which covers parts of New York and New England.
From his ordination until 1969, Fr. Husar taught at the seminary where he himself was educated, and he was a parish priest from 1966 to 1969. In that latter year, he went to Rome to study theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University. Now a doctor of theology, he entered the Studity monastery at Grottaferrata in Italy in 1972, and two years later, he became the superior there.
Fr. Husar’s consecration to bishop in 1977, to go with his new task as Archimandrite of all the Studite monks in Europe and America, from 1978 onwards, caused a bit if a stir, since the Pope had not given his apostolic mandate, something that Roman Canon Law required, but the Law of the Eastern Churches did not.
In 1995, as his homeland reopened its borders to the rest of the world, Bishop Husar was elected as Exarch of Kiev and Vysshorod. Upon his return to the Ukraine, he relinquished his American citizenship. In 1996, he was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Lviv, and in 2001, as that see had fallen vacant, Eparch Husar was elected as Major Archbishop of Lviv. In that same year, he was created a cardinal, with Santa Sofia a Via Boccea as his title church. With Ignace Daoud, Cardinal Husar was the only Eastern Catholic to participate in the 2005 conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI.
In 2005, the see of Lviv was moved to Kiev, and Cardinal Husar became Major Archbishop of that city. In 2011, failing eyesight caused him to retire, although he had performed the Ukrainian Catholic liturgy from memory when his sight had gotten too bad.
As Major Archbishop of Kiev, Cardinal Husar received an honorary doctorate from the Catholic University of America, and he was decorated by the President of Ukraine “for his outstanding personal contribution in spiritual revival of the Ukrainian nation, longstanding church work, and to mark his 75th birthday”.
Cardinal Husar was a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, the Pontifical Council for Culture, and the Special Council for Europe of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.
There are now 117 cardinal electors who are allowed to participate in next month’s conclave.
Photo credit: Edmond Fountain/St Petersburg Times
If it weren’t for Blessed John Paul II, Józef Cardinal Glemp would have been the sole face of Polish Catholicism in the waning days of that country’s Communist regime. Yesterday he died at the age of 83.
Born in the Polish heartland in 1929, the life of young Józef was marked by war. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, he was employed as a slave labourer. Despite this, which undoubtedly marked his teenage years, he was able to continue his seminary education, culminating in an ordination to the priesthood in 1956. He belonged to the priesthood of the Archdiocese of Gniezno, although he initially worked in neighbouring Poznań. After two years, he was sent to Rome, to study canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University. In 1964, Father Glemp earned his doctorate and also the title of Advocate of the Roman Rota. He also wrapped up studies in church administration, which no doubt prepared him for his future job.
Returning to Gniezno, Fr. Glemp took up work as chaplain to Dominican and Franciscan sisters and taught religion in a house for underage delinquents. He was also secretary of the Gniezno seminary, and had duties as notary for the Polish curia.
For fifteen years, starting in 1967, he was the secretary of Poland’s great wartime prelate, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski. This took Fr. Glemp to Rome and all over Poland and made him a familiar face among the Polish bishops. In 1972 he was made a Chaplain of His Holiness, conferring on him the title of Monsignor. In 1976, Msgr. Glemp became a canon of Gniezno’s metropolitan chapter.
In 1979, Msgr. Glemp became bishop of Warmia, but he wouldn’t stay there long. In 1981, his longtime mentor and collaborator, Cardinal Wyszynski, died. The cardinal was archbishop of both Gniezno and Warsaw, and Bishop Glemp succeeded him in both sees, in part as a reflection of their respective importance: Warsaw as Poland’s capital, and Gniezno as Poland’s primatial see. Archbishop Glemp therefore became Primate of Poland. This gave him the right to wear a cardinal’s red zucchetto, although he wasn’t a cardinal yet.
In 1983, Archbishop Glemp became Cardinal Glemp, with the title church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. I 1992, Pope John Paul II decided to dissolve the union “ad personam“ between Gniezno and Warsaw. Cardinal Glemp remained as archbishop of Warsaw alone, but he held the title of Primate until his 80th birthday in 2009. After that date, the title reverted to the archbishop of Gniezno.
Cardinal Glemp was president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference from 1981 to 2004, and was also ordinary of the Eastern-rite Catholics of Poland from 1981 to 2007. Following th sudden resignation of his successor in Warsaw, Archbishop Wielgus, Cardinal Glemp served as Apostolic Administrator of Warsaw for three months in 2007. Until his retirement, he was a member of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Apostolic Signatura.
Cardinal Glemp’s time as archbishop was marked with few controversies, chief among this perceived anti-Semitism. He later regretted that he was perceived as such. In the Cold War years, he worked with future president Lech Walesa, and was a careful intermediary between Church and Communist leadership. He was not a violent man, and never supported violent opposition to the regime, stating that his duty was the preservation of the Church, not the overthrow of the government. Although he urged restraint from the faithful, he expected the same from the Communists.
Cardinal Józef Glemp passed away afer a battle with lung cancer. He leaves a strong Catholic identity in Poland, having successfully averted the tides of secularism in his time.
The College of Cardinals remains with 119 electors out of 210 members.
A short post to draw attention to Rorate Caeli, who present what is presumably the first English translation of a groundbreaking Dutch text… from 70 years ago. It is the pastoral letter written by the Dutch bishops on July 20 1942, and scheduled to be read out from all pulpits on the following 26th of July. In it, the bishops condemn “the persecution of the Jews and the unfortunate lot of those who are sent to work in foreign countries”.
Go, read the text at Rorate Caeli. Rumours that the Church, local and worldwide, never spoke out against the Holocaust are, as this letter may indicate, simply untrue.
Vacant sees, dioceses without a bishop, are not unheard of. At any given time, the worldwide Church has a few dozen of these, as bishops are transferred or pass away and a successor is not yet selected. These vacancies usually last from several months to some two years in exceptional cases. The Diocese of Pinsk, in Belarus, has a different story, though. It has been without a bishop of its own for almost exactly 66 years…
Belarus is often regarded as the last dictatorship in Europe, and a country whose government looks back fondly on its Soviet history. Not surprisingly, the Church is looked upon with suspicion at best, although she has been allowed to maintain her ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the form of three dioceses and an archdiocese. Of these, Pinsk covers the entire southern third of the nation.
Established in 1925, Pinsk was led by two bishops in succession: Bishop Zygmunt Łoziński from 1925 to 1932, and Bishop Kazimierz Bukraba from 1932 to 1946. But then that episode ended, coinciding with the aftermath of World War II and the Soviet Union’s incorporation of formerly Polish territory into Belarus. Just like in other Communist countries, the Church had a hard time, especially when it comes to the free appointment of bishops and priests. As in other dioceses, apostolic administrators were appointed. For Pinsk, these were Bishop Wladyslaw Jedruszuk, auxiliary bishop of Pinsk from the time of Bishop Bukraba, from 1967 to 1991; Cardinal Kazimierz Świątek, the archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev, from 1991 to 2011; and Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusievicz, Cardinal Świątek’s successor as archbishop of Minks-Mohilev, from June 2011 to today.
As the last of Belarus’ dioceses, Pinsk now once more has its own bishop. He is Msgr. Antoni Dziemianko, 52 years old, and until today Minsk-Mohilev’s auxiliary bishop. The bishop, who incidentally has the same motto in his coat of arms as our own Cardinal Simonis – Ut Unum Sint -, was ordained to the priesthood in 1980. In 1998, he was appointed as an auxiliary bishop of Grodno, also in Belarus, with the titular see of Lesvi – a see once held by the late Cardinal Sánchez of the Philippines. In 2004, he was transferred to the Archdiocese of Minsk-Mohilev, of which he was the apostolic administrator from June of 2006 to September 2007, upon the retirement of Cardinal Świątek. He continued his duties as auxiliary bishop until his appointment as ordinary of Pinsk today.
Although a vacancy of 66 years is extraordinary, it is, sadly, by no means unique. There are eight jurisdictions, in China, North Korea, Greece, Ukraine and Romania, which have been vacant for longer. The record holder is the Apostolic Vicariate of Thessaloniki in Greece, which has been vacant since Bishop Allesandro Guidati became archbishop of Naxos-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos in 1929…
Photo credit:  Rostisław Wygranenko