The annual Procession of the Precious Blood in Bruges on Ascension Day will this year be rather poor in clergy. In fact, diocesan administrator Fr. Koen Vanhoutte will be the only clergyman in it. The Confraternity of the Precious Blood, which organises the procession, announced this today. The reason is fear of the public’s reaction in light of the abuse crisis and especially the resignation of Bishop Vangheluwe, still a very tender topic in Bruges.
There will also be no altar servers in the procession. Organiser Benoit Kervyn: “We want to avoid that altar severs, young people supporting the procession, get things thrown at them, either verbally or physically. We think it advisable to protect these people and they fully understand this.”
There is a lot of anger in Bruges about their former bishop and his crime, or so I understand from various media reports. In that light, it is perhaps understandable to keep clergy and altar servers out of the Procession. Beside protecting them, it may also allow the attention to remain on the relic and thus on Christ.
But is it a matter of giving in to emotion and misunderstanding? After all, your random priest can’t by any means be considered guilty of anything just because he is a priest. Keeping them away would therefore seem unfair. But if the situation in Bruges at the moment is as fragile and painful as we are led to believe, it is perhaps the wisest course of action. Things will need time to settle down, and that time may be long (I expect it will last until after the appointment and installation of a new bishop), but it will end. The Procession of the Precious Blood has been held since the early 14th century, and will continue o be held for a while longer. For now, the people of Bruges need the time to get a grip on their situation, and the best help in that is Christ and an undivided focus on Him in the Procession.
But it is sad to see, I’ll admit.