In the past few years, the Dutch bishops’ conference has gained four new members and lost one, and now those changes are being reflected in the responsibilities that the members have within the conference. Traditionally, each bishop is a so-called ‘referent’ for a specific field of policy. For example, my own bishop, Msgr. Gerard de Korte, is referent for matters of Church and society; he has appeared often in the media about the abuse crisis, for example, an area where Church and society meet.
Now that both the Archdiocese of Utrecht and the Diocese of ‘s-Hertogenbosch have each gained two auxiliary bishops, and the previous bishop of Rotterdam has retired, these responsibilities are being reshuffled. The changes and new responsibilities are reflected in the list below:
- Catechesis: Msgr. Rob Mutsaerts (from Msgr. de Jong)
- Church and the Elderly: Msgr. Gerard de Korte
- Church and Society: Msgr. Gerard de Korte
- Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community: Msgr. Theodorus Hoogenboom (from Msgr. van Luyn)
- Communication and Media: Msgr. Frans Wiertz
- Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe: Msgr. Wim Eijk (from Msgr. van Luyn)
- Ecumenism: Msgr. Jan van Burgsteden
- Education: Msgr. Everard de Jong
- Interreligious Dialogue: Msgr. Hans van den Hende
- Liturgy: Msgr. Jan Liesen (from Msgr. Hurkmans)
- Marriage and Family: Msgr. Antoon Hurkmans
- Medical Ethics: Msgr. Wim Eijk
- Mission and Development: Msgr. Jos Punt
- New Movements: Msgr. Jan van Burgsteden
- Pilgrimages: Msgr. Herman Woorts
- Relations with Judaism: Msgr. Herman Woorts (from Msgr. van Luyn)
- Religious and Secular Institutes: Msgr. Jan van Burgsteden
- Vocation and formation: Msgr. Wim Eijk
- Women and Church: Msgr. Gerard de Korte
- Youth: Msgr. Rob Mutsaerts (from Msgr. de Jong)
One of the most striking changes for many will be the handover of the Youth portfolio from Bishop de Jong to Bishop Mutsaerts. For years, Bishop de Jong has been known as the ‘youth bishop’, a popular, enthusiastic and charismatic representative of the bishops to the young Catholics at the annual Catholic Youth Day, the international World Youth Day and other youth events. While he remains in contact with young people through his education portfolio as well as membership in the board of the the Thomas More Foundation, he will be missed by many. But who knows, maybe this will also clear the way for a somewhat more ‘serious’ direction, an appointment as ordinary of a diocese, perhaps?
His successor among the young Catholics, Bishop Mutsaerts, is relatively unknown in this specific field. Of course, he gave a great homily at last November’s Catholic Youth Day, but aside from that, there has not been much contact. I have fairly high hopes that he can be a great force for good in the formation of and engagement with the youth.
Among the other appointments, that of the theologian Bishop Liesen for Liturgy has some promise. He certainly has the international contacts that will allow him to look over the fence at how liturgy is perceived in other countries, something that the Dutch Church could do well with.
And the future? Well, perhaps another reshuffling will come in a few years. We’ll have a new bishop in Breda then, and Msgr. van Burgsteden will hopefully be enjoying his retirement, being over 75 already.