In the footsteps of St. Willibrord at Echternach

Katholieknederland.nl has some nice photos of the annual dancing procession in Echternach, Luxembourg. Wherever St. Willibrord, the Anglo-Saxon who brought the faith to northwestern Europe, went, processions still exist. The one in Utrecht, the see of St. Willibrord as the first archbishop of the Frisians, was recently resuscitated, but the Echternach procession has a long history. But most of all, it is an expression of joy, as the blue sisters below show.

As a dancing procession, participants proceed in a dancing motion with slow kicks to the left and right. Begin and end of the route is the 7th century abbey church where the remains of St. Willibrord are kept.

St. Willibrord is the patron saint of the Dutch Church province and his historic mission territory includes much of what is now the Benelux, Germany and Denmark. Hence the presence today of many prelates from these countries. Among them, of course, Luxembourg’s Archbishop Fernand Franck, but also Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg (Germany) and, from the Netherlands, Cardinal Simonis, Archbishop Eijk, Bishops Wiertz, De Jong, Hoogenboom and Woorts. Also present was the Old-Catholic archbishop of Utrecht, Joris Vercammen.

Check those photos out, and get an impression of the simple, pure joy of faith.

An old discussion rehashed

There’s been a minor hubbub about old statements by Pope Benedict XVI to the Dutch bishops, as related in a recent tv interview by Msgr. Tiny Muskens, emeritus bishop of Breda. Some thoughts.

In 2004, during their latest ad limina visit to Rome, the Dutch bishops were received by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, at the time the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Bishop Muskens – who has a bit of a reputation of liberalism when it comes to such topics as celibacy, the ordination of women and the truth of the creation stories – had asked Cardinal Simonis, then the president of the Dutch bishops’ conference, to enquire with Cardinal Ratzinger about the possibility of allowing married men to be ordained. The prefect is said to have replied, “I don’t see it happening in the next decade”.

The Dutch bishops are said to have been surprised at that – surprising in itself, if they had known Cardinal Ratzinger somewhat – and Bishop Muskens draws the conclusion that this means that the pope is open to discussing mandatory celibacy for priests.

A bit of a leap of logic, to be sure. Celibacy for priests is not a dogma and can therefore be abolished. But the fact that it can, does not mean it will. And that, I think, is all that Cardinal Ratzinger would have meant. Of course mandatory celibacy can be open to discussion. But he doubts it will to any significant degree within the curia. Not within the next decade, at least.

And what about that next ad limina visit? It’s been 7 years…