On the advice of his GP, Bishop Antoon Hurkmans of ‘s-Hertogenbosch has taken a leave of absence from his duties as ordinary of the diocese. These duties will be taken over by Auxiliary Bishop Rob Mutsaerts, who will form the temporary staff with fellow Auxiliary Bishop Jan Liesen and and economic director Deacon Peter Broeders.
Bishop Hurkmans announces that, in the past two years, he has repeatedly crossed his own physical and medical boundaries and is now paying the price. A leave of absence is now possible with the two new auxiliary bishops, appointed and consecrated earlier this year. It is unknown how long the leave will take, but the bishop won’t be spending it at his episcopal residence in the centre of ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
Some see Bishop Mutsaerts taking over the duties of Bishop Hurkmans as a prelude to the future: a future in which Mutsaerts is appointed is Bishop Coadjutor and eventually the new bishop of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. While it seems a natural conclusion to draw, it is by no means as simple as that. The appointment of a new bishop is a fairly extensive procedure in which the diocese in question, the nuncio and Rome can all present candidates, and even then someone not on the lists may be appointed.
As of now there is no indication that 66-year-old Bishop Hurkmans intends to offer his resignation to the pope.
Much to the surprise (and fascination) of one of my in-laws’ cats, there has been a good amount of snow over the past days. It’s rare in this part of the country to have any lasting snow in early December, let alone an amount that allows for snowball fights.
The students of the Irish Dominican Province are also not above some fun in the snow, as the Mulier Fortis shares:
It’s the 6th of December, the feast day of Saint Nicholas of Myra, but for many people in the Netherlands, Belgium, parts of Germany and central Europe, his celebration is already over. The old tradition of giving gifts on the eve of the saint’s feast day still exists, and despite heavy secularisation and commercialisation, his imagery is still enormously Catholic. Depicted as a bishop with mitre, staff, alb and something approaching a chasuble, the heavily-bearded saint still makes an official arrival in the Netherlands in mid- to late-November, when he is welcomed in a different city or town each year, with members of the local authorities and the royal family in attendance. Well-choreographed children shows and tv-programs are centered around St. Nicholas, or Sinterklaas in Dutch, as he promises presents to children who have been good and, now less frequently, punishment for bad children (often in the form of being taken to Spain, where tradition tells us St. Nicholas lives during the year).
In reality, the person of St. Nicholas of Myra, in modern Turkey, lies at the foundation of the tradition of Sinterklaas. The abbot and bishop may have been an important player at the Council of Nicaea in 325, where he defended Catholic teaching in the face of heresy, and victim of persecution under Emperor Diocletian: first and foremost a Christian, a Catholic shepherd and example then.
The media attention to Sinterklaas will now lie dormant for another year, but how fantastic would it be if this regal person with all his Catholic regalia and symbolism were officially welcomed by the bishops of the Netherlands next year? Sure, he may be the great friend of children and giver of gifts, but in the end he is the abbot and bishop who is an example to us all in his Christianity. Maybe it’s time we all get to know him as such again.