On the invisible throne – Van den Hende installed as Rotterdam’s fifth bishop

In the presence of bishops, the nuncio, chapter members and priests from the three dioceses associated with him, Bishop Hans van den Hende was installed as the fifth bishop of Rotterdam, yesterday.

In his homily, he put the term ‘installation’ in perspective.”You are being placed, as the pope also says of himself, in his letter of appointment, that he too has been placed.” Words that not only reflect the innate humility and matter-of-factness of the Groningen-born bishop, but also his strong sense of being in communion with world Church and the pope.

Taking his place, or being placed, on the transparent cathedra in the cathedral of Sts. Lawrence and Elisabeth, Bishop van den Hende continues trends started by his predecessor, Bishop Ad van Luynm standing on the right in the photo above. Among these is the northern heritage he brings with him: both bishops were born in Groningen. Another element is the bishops’ well-developed sense of responsibility for the youth. Bishop van Luyn, even before his appointment to Rotterdam, kept searching for ways to connect to young people and communicate the Gospel to them. In the past year this has become visible in, for example, the great Passion event in Gouda, but also in Taizé on the Maas, held around Christmas last year. Bishop van den Hende has that same sense, if less pronounced. It is more something that naturally expresses itself in his actions and words. He easily communicates with young people, as he does with virtually anyone he meets, and young people notice that here is a man who not only listens, but also understands them. And that is a man that they can listen to and understand. The Catholic youth of Rotterdam are in good hands, it would seem.

Young people in their WYD 2011 clothes congratulate the bishop

After the Mass of installation – which the coming and going ordinaries concelebrated with, among others, Archbishop François Bacqué, the papal nuncio, Archbishop Wim Eijk, Msgr. Dick Verbakel, the vicar general, Msgr Schoenmakers, the general delegate of the Diocese of Breda, and priests from Rotterdam, Breda and Groningen-Leeuwarden – Bishop van den Hende consecrated his new diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This was a seemingly unplanned gesture, but fitting on today’s feast of the same Immaculate Heart. “No one opened their heart so for God as Mary did,” the bishop said. He called those present to wonder “what we can do for God, what His plan for us is.”

Nuncio Archbishop Bacqué, with secretary Msgr. Habib Thomas Halim at his side, shows the papal letter of appointment
Succeeding bishops, Van den Hende and Van Luyn

For more photos, courtesy of Peter van Mulken, go here.

Preparing for Madrid

Next month I’ll be away from my usual haunts, digital and otherwise. There will be little time for blogging or any other social media activity, for Iĺl be at the World Youth Days in Madrid, Spain, from 10 to 23 August, with a group of about 100 young people, youth workers and clergy from the Archdiocese of Utrecht. Yesterday This weekend, the organising team hosted a preparatory weekend for all attendees. I was only able to join them for the Saturday, but I did get the core of the information and preparation on offer.

There were several aspects to the weekend: practical, social and spiritual. Father Hans Pauw, one of the archdiocesan regional vicars, covered the first aspect, going over the program and events in both Zaragoza and Madrid; there were games and sports activities to get to know the other attendees; and youth worker Hao Tran spoke about topics such as ‘God is love’ and our image of God that plays a major role in our relationship with Him. The day ended with a time of Adoration, Confession and prayer.

Some photographic impressions:

Young people from all over the archdiocese (and beyond) arrive at the primary school where the weekend was held
The core team of the archdiocesan trip to Madrid makes its introductions
Fr. Pauw goes over the practicals
Lunch time in the school yard.
The story of the prodigal son in sketch form, to underline the mercy of God
Tug-of-war, the girls versus (most of) the boys
Diahann from the Faculty of Catholic Theology hands out key chains and information about studying theology
Bishop Theodorus Hoogenboom, auxiliary of the archdiocese, comes to say hi, encourage us, and link his last name (literally meaning 'high tree') to the motto of this edition of the WYD: "Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith"
Bishop Hoogenboom kneels before the Blessed Sacrament
Sacred Heart of Jesus, guide and inspire us!

From Cologne with love – Woelki to Berlin

In 1988, Berlin lost its bishop – Joachim Meisner, now a cardinal – to Cologne. Now, it seems, the gesture is returned. Only four days after the death of the previous metropolitan of the German capital, Bishop Rainer Maria Woelki crosses the country from Cologne. And so none of the German dioceses remain vacant any longer.

Archbishop elect Woelki was born in Cologne in 1956 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1985. In 2003 he was ordained to be one of the auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Cologne (he leaves three of them with Cardinal Meisner). In his time in Cologne he served as private secretary to the cardinal, and director of the Collegium Albertinum for seminarians studying in Bonn, among other duties. As auxiliary bishop he held the titular see of Scampa in modern Albania, and within the German bishops’ conference his responsibilities were in the fields of vocations, Church ministries and science & culture. At 54, he is among the youngest German bishops, and certainly the youngest archbishop.

As mentioned before, this appointment fills all German sees, but in the near future we may expect three new vacancies, one of which is Woelki’s native Cologne. Cardinal Meisner is 77 and thus overdue for retirement, and the same goes for Bishop Wilhelm Schraml of Passau (76) and Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz (75).