The Church in Suriname

Bishop Frans Wiertz of Roermond is visiting the diocese of Paramaribo in Suriname. Monsignor Wierts has been making work visits to different countries each year in January, to show the variety and scope of the world Church. In Suriname he’ll visit pastoral centres, schools, seminaries and various projects which his own diocese supports financially. He’ll also meet with various religious leaders and will administer the sacrament of Confirmation in two small villages in the west of the country.

Just before the trip the diocesan magazine of Roermond had an interview with the bishop of Paramaribo, the Dutch-born Msgr. Wim de Bekker.

An interesting look at a diocese that is both far away and closely connected to the Netherlands.

By Frans van Galen

Bishop Wiertz and Vicar Storcken of mission affairs are currently visiting the diocese of Paramaribo in Suriname. It is the country’s only diocese and consists of thirty parishes. Some 20 priests minister to about 110,000 people: a quarter of the population. The diocese is 51 years old and is led by Bishop Wim de Bekker (70), born in Helmond. Before Bishop Wiertz’s visit to his diocese, Bishop de Bekker was kind enough to give an impression of the state of the Church in Suriname.

What does the Church that they will meet look like?

“Luckily the Church in Suriname is not grey as we have sadly seen in the Netherlands. There is a lot happening on our diocese, which obviously pleases me greatly. There is a major focus on youth work, and this year we gained a special apostolate by the establishment of the cathedral choir school, consisting of some 60 children. A very special result of that is that a number of parishes now have their own youth choirs. In the coming year we’ll increasingly promote formation days for school children. Our diocese obviously also cares for the sick and elderly and provides Catholic education. The interior of Suriname is a separate chapter. We work with a large number of catechists who have followed a 5-year course, and who have an annual week of refresher courses. They are responsible for Church life in the villages. Msgr. Wiertz will be meeting a number of them when we go to western Suriname for the Confirmations.”

Are there striking differences between the Dutch and Surinam Church or also similarities?

“The Church is alive here. That is largely due to the fact that we cherish social contacts. And the participation of children and young people in the Masses should also not go unmentioned. The message of peace during the Eucharist is always a very warm moment. And of course there are differences in music and song. But there is still an inhertiance from the past, in the form of the familiar Dutch songs which often jar somewhat with the lighter and more rhythmic intonation of the Surinam an Caribean music. Because of the climate our churches are open to the wind, which also brings in street noises which can be a little disruptive, but we are used to it. We also have a shortage of priests. At the moment there are twenty for the entire country, and their average age is high. We have four Redemptorists from Brazil, a priest from Nigeria, two Belgian brother priests, a few Dutchmen and seven priests from Suriname. Too few to be able to be everywhere.”

What is the place of the Catholic Church in Surinam society?

“We are there. The Church has a solid place and is often consulted. I try to be present at special events as much as possible and people appreciate that. Radio and television take the word of the Church into account.”

How is the relationship with other denominations?

“The relationship with other denominations is good. The Roman Catholic Church takes part in the Committee of Christian Churches, and ecumenical cooperation with the Moravian Church, the Dutch Reformed Church in Suriname, the Lutheran church, the Anglican church and the Salvation Army. The committee was established in 1942 and therefore older than the World Council of Churches, and we’re quite proud of that. The Roman Catholic Church also works as part of the Interreligious Council in Suriname, which consists of two Muslim organisation, two Hindu organisations and the Catholic Church. Both groups meet monthly. We’re also trying to established some cooperation between them in the area of social problems. The upcoming elections play a part in that, but HIV and AIDS also demand our shared attention. Next year we want to create a chaplaincy for sailors.”

Are their specific new projects which require your attention?

The youth needs special attention. We want to modernise our formation center. When the accomodation is welcoming, the message can be brought across better and people will have good memories of it. The upgrading of our education institutes requires special attention now. We want to establish a polytechnic, and that is a lot of work. In January we are starting a second course for the diaconate and the classes for parish assistants.”

How about the support from your native country?

“I think we should speak of my former country instead of my native country. It is about Suriname and not my random connection to the Netherlands as a Dutchman. There are many needs, especially for the schools in the interior where a lot must be improved. There is a major shortage of housing for teachers and some schools need renovations. Sadly, education in Suriname is not equal, and faith-based schools get only limited grants from the government. Improvements and restorations are possible only through aid.”

One thought on “The Church in Suriname”

  1. Dear Sir / Madam,
    I kindly submit the following information for your consideration. Thank you.
    Is Jesus Christ Really the Almighty God?
    Let us examine some Scriptures.
    1) John 3:16= God sent Jesus to the earth. Since God sent Jesus, then Jesus CANNOT be God who sent him.
    2) John 20: 17= Here Jesus referred to the Almighty as his Father and his God. Since the Almighty was Jesus’ Father, then Jesus CANNOT be the Almighty Father. Moreover, since Jesus said that the Father is his God, then it simply means that Jesus is NOT God. Why would Jesus have a God if he himself were God?
    Some persons object to this by saying: “When Jesus was on earth, he was 100% man or a God-man.” Those who say he was 100% man or God-man would say that he had a God when on earth but as he returned to heaven, he became 100% God again. If that is the case, then note number 3) below.
    When the apostle John got the Revelation, Jesus was in heaven, Jesus himself being involved in giving John the Revelation according to Revelation 1:1.
    3) Revelation 2:18= Here Jesus, back IN HEAVEN, is called the “SON of God.” Why is Jesus called the “SON of God” while in heaven if he became fully God when he went back to heaven? Why did Revelation 2:18 NOT say concerning Jesus: “These things saith God… rather, saying, “SON of God”? Note number 4 below. Please note also. The verse did NOT say, “God the Son,” but it said “SON of God”.
    4) Revelation 3:12 = Here again we keep in mind that Jesus was IN HEAVEN. Why did Jesus use the expression, “my God” in this verse? If Jesus were God when he was back in heaven, then he would never say “my God,” for he himself would be God.
    5)Revelation 7:10,11= In heaven, while salvation is attributed to the Most High God, Jehovah, (Psalms 83:18) seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, Jesus Christ, WORSHIP is given ONLY to God, Jehovah, the one seated on the throne.
    So we clearly see that Jesus was still God’s SON while in heaven according to Revelation 2:18, and the Almighty was still the God of Jesus after Jesus went back to heaven according to Revelation 3:12. Jesus did NOT become God when he returned to heaven. So really, Jesus is NOT the Almighty God, and he NEVER claimed to be. Jesus knew and willingly accepted that he was the “SON of God”. John 10:36. Revelation 2:18.
    Some people use the statement at Acts 4:12 to try to prove that Jesus is God. Yes, there the verse shows that there is no salvation in anyone else but Jesus. But that does not prove that Jesus is God. To illustrate, the Lawyer that owns a Law Firm may say: “If any client wants to dialogue with me, he/she MUST make an appointment through my secretary. Failure to do so would certainly result in no dialogue with me. That’s my arrangement period.” Of course, this does not mean that the Secretary is the Lawyer as well, nor does it mean that the Secretary has the same authority as the Lawyer. In the same way, Jesus being the appointed means through which mankind can be saved, period, does not mean that he is the Almighty God, Jehovah, or that he has the same authority as Jehovah. It is simply the fact that Jehovah arranged for mankind’s Salvation to come through Jesus Christ. Note too that Revelation 7:10, discussed above, point out that Salvation is credited to two distinct individuals, to Jehovah, the one seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, Jesus Christ.(John 1:29, 36) Since Jehovah, the Most High, made the arrangement for Salvation, then justifiably, he primarily MUST be credited for making such salvation possible through His Son, Jesus Christ. Note also that Revelation 7:11 tells us that the angels worshipped God, who is seated on the throne. It did NOT say that the angels worshipped the Lamb, Jesus Christ, even though Jesus is in heaven with Jehovah. Thus, in heaven, Jesus is still called the Lamb, NOT God. 1 Corinthians 15:28, written by the inspired apostle Paul after Christ was already back in heaven, plainly shows that Jesus Christ will remain subject to the Almighty God, Jehovah, for ALL ETERNITY.
    Whenever Jehovah’s Witnesses pass by, feel free to discuss the above matter with them and any other Bible topic. Please DO NOT let any bias person discourage you from talking with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Find out matters for yourself. Acts 28:22.
    You can also ask them to have regular Bible discussions with you once or more a week at a time and place convenient for you, if even for just 10 to 15 minutes each time. Further, check the website- http://www.jw.org for more information. Thank you.
    Regards,
    Annie

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