After the summer, appointment season open

With the summer for the Church now well and truly over (despite the sudden onset of honest to God summer weather here in the Netherlands), as the pope thanks the staff at Castel Gandolfo before returning to Rome, we can perhaps look forward to a few changes in the Dutch Catholic hierarchy. Not to say that there’s any guarantee that these will take place before, say Christmas, but we may as well look ahead.

Of course, carried over from before the summer, we have a vacant diocese, Breda. It’s last bishop, Msgr. Hans van den Hende, took over the glass cathedra of Rotterdam in July. So, with vacancies of Breda in the past century usually lasting any length of time between two and eight months, we may expect a new bishop there come December or January, perhaps sooner. The few rumours that reach this scribe’s ear tend to name any of the recently appointed auxiliary bishops on Utrecht and ‘s Hertogenbosch, although in light of the recent reshuffling of duties within the Bishops’ Conference, one can’t escape the impression that perhaps Bishop Everard de Jong, auxiliary of Roermond since 1998, is being groomed for a diocese of his own…

Another opening, if less visible, is that of the official representative of the Holy See in the Netherlands, the Vatican ambassador, so to speak. Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop François Bacqué reached the age of 75 in early September, at which time he undoubtedly lodged the mandatory resignation with the Holy See. Whether that will be honoured on any short notice remains to be seen of course. But any changes in that field are worth keeping a close eye on for two reasons: the Dutch Catholic playing field is a difficult one, and the Nuncio plays an important part in the selection of future bishops. He receives the terna from the diocese which needs a new shepherd, as well as from the entire conference, and sends it to Rome with his own annotations.

Archbishop Bacqué was appointed to the nunciature in The Hague in 2001, after stints in Sri Lanka and the Dominican Republic. In those 10 years, he played his part in the appointment of reassignment of eight bishops (in one occasion both), from Bishop Jos Punt to Haarlem in 2001 to the reassignment of Van den Hende to Rotterdam earlier this year. In this longest stint as Nuncio here since that of Archbishop Angelo Felici between 1967 and 1976, Archbishop Bacqué has left a trademark quiet but unmistakable mark on the now and future development of the Dutch Church. Archbishop Bacqué’s replacement will most likely be coming from the extensive diplomatic force of the Holy See, although diocesan bishops have in the past been sent to be representatives in other countries.

But before that is the case, the Nuncio will make at least one more notable appearance during the High Mass in the Extraordinary Form at Amsterdam’s St. Agnes on 6 November, which will be offered by Cardinal Burke in the presence of Bishop Punt.

Photo credit: [1] L’Osservatore Romano – Vatican Pool via Getty Images, [2] Bisdom Haarlem-Amsterdam