It is never too late to admit a mistake

It takes strength of character to amid mistakes, and even more so to ask forgiveness from those you have hurt by your actions. Christian Ouwens has such character. Omroep Brabant reports that the student of theology regrets his actions of two years ago, when he filed a complaint against two priests and the bishop of ‘s Hertogenbosch. The reason was the widely-reported refusal of communion to the openly homosexual carnival prince of the village of Reusel.

Mr. Ouwens now admits that he was wrong and Father Luc Buyens was right. He regrets  having urged others in the wrong direction and having attacked the faith, the priest and the bishop. “The fact that something feels good, does not mean that it is good,” he says about his support for a homosexual lifestyle. Mr. Ouwens is homosexual himself.

He has already spoken to Father Geertjan van Rossum, one of the priests he lodged an official complaint against in early 2010, and he says that the priest respects him. He plans to have the priest of Reusel hear his confession this coming Wednesday, although he has already spoken with him. Whether this is Fr. Luc Buyens, the parish priest in Reusel at the time of the incident, or the current priest, Father Karel van Rosmalen, is not known, although the former seems most fitting.

Admitting mistakes is not a weakness, but a sign of maturity. We all make mistakes, and we can all remedy them, such as by asking forgiveness from those we hurt, be they people around us, people farther away, or God Himself. That is what Confession is for. If we are truly sorry for what we did, He will forgive us and shine His light on the road before us.

Compliments to Mr. Ouwens for his courage!

Photo source:

Now official: San Salvator no longer Catholic

A full church during the last liberal service at San Salvator

It is exceedingly rare that a community of faithful breaks away from the Catholic Church, certainly when compared to the Protestant churches. But yesterday morning it happened. The parish council, fired earlier last week, of the San Salvator parish in Den Bosch, took many faithful with them in their misguided break away from the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch. They will be continuing their services in a community centre around the corner from the church which they had used for the past years.

It is now up to Bishop Rob Mutsaerts, who has been appointed as temporary parish priest, to install a new parish council and return the sacraments and the faith of the world Church back to the people of the surrounding neighbourhoods. Stating that the faithful have every right to defect, he says: “This no longer fits under the banner of the Roman Catholic Church, but apart from that I wish them all the best.”

Considering the stubborn attitude of the San Salvator council in discussions with the diocese, and their hostile attitude to Church teachings personified, for them, in Bishop Mutsaerts, this was something of an inevitable consequence. But it is a great loss. For the people of the parish, who are deprived from the sacraments and the salvation Christ offers through them, and also from the communion with the rest of the diocese. In essence they have become a lone island whose actions are dictated by hollow feelings and empty words.

Photo credit: Omroep Brabant

New apostolic delegate to the tropical Netherlands

Following the reassignment of Archbishop Thomas Gullickson to the Ukraine in May (which sadly seemed to herald the end of his blog, Island Envoy), the island nations in the Carribean welcomed their new Nuncio yesterday. He is Archbishop Nicola Girasola, 54, who arrives from an almost six year stint as prelate diplomat in Zambia and Malawi.

Among the countries and dependencies where he will be the highest representative of the Holy See, are the Dutch constituent countries of Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten, and the special municipalities of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba.

Archbishop Girasoli was born in Apulia, southern Italy, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1980 by Blessed Pope John Paul II. In 1986 he was incardinated in the Diocese of Molfetta-Ruvo-Giovinazzo-Terlizzi. 20 years later, at the age of 48, Fr. Girasoli was appointed to be the nuncio to Zambia and Malawi, being ordained as archbishop of the titular see of Egnazia Appula (perhaps not coincidentally also the location of his hometown) in March of that year. Now, close to six years later, he is transferred to 10 independent countries, where he’ll be the Nuncio, and 14 more dependencies, where he’ll hold the position of Apostolic Delegate.

No peace without God

Or, the things we (must) do for peace.

Pope Benedict XVI has done it again. With utter clarity, he placed the finger on the sore spot of what is required for peace. Not that he gives an easy recipe for world peace (a nigh impossibility, in any case, since, “violence as such is potentially ever present and it is a characteristic feature of our world”), but he does indicate where we go wrong and what we need to get that much closer to achieving the seemingly impossible (a very Catholic attitude, by the way).

The text, which can be read in English, here, and in Dutch, here, is rich and deserves a thorough reading. Let’s highlight some key points:

  • There are two types of violence and discord, “which are the very antithesis of each other in terms of their motivation”: religiously-motivated terrorism on the one hand, and the loss of humanity which comes from the denial of God and which leads to limitless cruelty and violence.
  • Religiously-motivated terrorism challenges everyone who is religious. It asks us what the true nature of religion is and how we can know it.
  • In order for religion to serve peace in the world, despite the fallibility of its adherents, it must continuously purify itself.
  • Denial of God leads to the flourishing of a counter-religion: “The worship of mammon, possessions and power is proving to be a counter-religion, in which it is no longer man who counts but only personal advantage. The desire for happiness degenerates, for example, into an unbridled, inhuman craving, such as appears in the different forms of drug dependency.”
  • Force is taken for granted and destroys people.
  • How can we know God and show Him to humanity in order to build true peace?
  • In addition to terrorism and the denial of God there is the growing phenomenon of agnosticism, “people to whom the gift of faith has not been given, but who are nevertheless on the lookout for truth, searching for God.” They ask question of both the atheist and the religious camps.
  • Agnostics seek God and truth, and it is our duty to reveal Him to them true an always purified religion.

But don’t take my word for it, and certainly not the word of the mainstream media, but read what the pope said.

Peace is also joy, as these Franciscan monks seem to want to make clear as they free white doves

Photo credit: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

Why I am not against Assisi

Pope Benedict XVI disembarks the train that brought him to Assisi

I haven’t paid much, if any, attention on the blog to today’s interreligious meeting at Assisi, hosted by the pope. The main reason is that I am somewhat taken aback by the onslaught of negative comments about this meeting, even after the program and the intentions have been made public. Even now, as the religious leaders are gathering in the town of Saint Francis, I read tweets warning of dark clouds gathering. And, I’m sorry top say, it’s mostly the ultra-orthodox among us who are so against the whole affair that they are seemingly unable to have some faith in the intelligence and intentions of our Holy Father. From the announcement of the meeting, given during the Angelus of 1 January:

“It will aim to commemorate the historical action desired by my Predecessor and to solemnly renew the commitment of believers of every religion to live their own religious faith as a service to the cause of peace. Those journeying to God cannot but transmit peace, those who are building peace cannot but draw close to God. I ask you, from this moment, to accompany this project with your prayers.”

Now, I do understand some of the concerns that people may have. The 1986 meeting at Assisi did see a mingling of religious traditions, which is at least inconsiderate and at worst a blasphemy. But that is a concern that the Holy Father shares! That is why, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he did not attend the 1986 meeting. But these concerns do not merit an all-out boycott of today’s meeting.

In the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions Nostra Aetate, the Church declared that:

“The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself (Cf. 2 Cor. 5:18-19).” [2]

Buddhist dignitaries arrive at the Assisi train station

Although they are different and contain less than the full truth, the Church nonetheless recognises that other religions and faiths can contain glimmers of that truth. God, after all, is not limited, and He can reveal Himself to all men of good will, regardless of nationality, affiliation or faith. This does not diminish the fact that He has given the Church as the way to His eternal love, but nor does it doom people who have been unable to come in contact with the Church to eternal damnation.

Other faiths and religions exist. That is a fact of life. All people, and believers especially so, are called to promote peace and justice in the world. What power, what enormous grace must a committed meeting to pray for that peace and strengthen one another in our commitment to it have!

So, no, I am not against Assisi. Its goal is a worthy one, and I have full confidence in our Holy Father that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated. That confidence is confirmed by the program of the meeting: there will gatherings of all kinds of religions, people of different faiths speaking to and with one another. There will be no denying, as mixing them up does, the uniqueness and identity of each faith or religion, least of the Catholic Christian faith.

Photo credit: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

The Night of Mary

Last weekend I took part in the first event by the Guild of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed aimed at young adults: the Night of Mary. We gathered in the small hamlet of Warfhuizen, home of the shrine of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed, for shared lunch and dinner, companionship, an introduction by hermit Brother Hugo on the topic of night, an afternoon walk through the Groninger countryside (below) to stretch the limbs and an evening candlelit procession to Our Lady at the shrine.

About a dozen young people came to spend the afternoon and take part in the procession, which was also open to adult pilgrims. We processed under a starlit sky, around the village cemetery and a field behind it (the only option in the village to walk a circle, unless we took a 15-kilometer detour in order to cross the canal), followed by a couple of very curious horses which managed to disrupt the prayer of Deacon Patrick, Brother Hugo and seminarian Sander leading the procession (the three fell into helpless laughter after a horse nuzzled the back of the deacon’s neck… a bit of a shocker in the dark!). At the shrine, we had exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and a lot of personal prayer intentions. These intentions are not new at Holy Hour at the shrine, but the sheer number of them was.

For something of an impression, Ingrid created this short film:

There are some photos available at the website of the shrine, here.

Photo credit: Mercèdès Terlaak

Changing of the guard

Although it is not unheard of that an auxiliary bishop combines his duties with some other function, such as seminary rector (I am thinking of the case of Bishop Arthur Kennedy, auxiliary of Boston and rector of the St. John’s Seminary there, for one), that will not be the case in Haarlem-Amsterdam. Newly appointed Bishop Jan Hendriks will be taking up the duties of vicar general, but bidding his farewell to the Tiltenberg seminary.

In many ways, certainly in recent years, Msgr. Hendriks has become the face of the seminary. Under his direction, the Tiltenberg has grown (only three weeks ago, Msgr. Hendriks signed the contract for a new wing that will serve as a meeting hall and large lecture room), reflecting the steadily increasing number of students, now from at least four dioceses, living there. On my last visit there, a few years ago, when I stayed in the guest house, the rector expressed the concern that the guest rooms would soon be needed to permanently house new students. I do believe that a fair share of the credit for these developments can go to Msgr. Hendriks.

Now that the rector becomes a bishop, a successor needed to be found. And one has. At yesterday’s press conference Father Gerard Bruggink (left) was presented as the new rector  of the Tiltenberg. Fr. Bruggink has been the rector of the Marian pilgrimage shrine in Heiloo for the past couple of years, and before that he was a parish priest in Hilversum for ten years. At the moment, official sources inform us, he is working on a dissertation on the papal primacy, based on the life and works of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216).  From this we may gather that Fr. Bruggink has experience in pastoral parish work as well as a link with Mary, just like his predecessor. He is also a scholar, and is not unfamiliar with social media: on the website of the shrine, he keeps a regular blog.

Photo credit: RKK/Robbert Jan Bron

An invitation from Bishop Punt

Bishop elect Jan Hendriks, with Bishop Jos Punt and emeritus Bishop Jan van Burgsteden, at today´s press conference

Following the news of the appointment of Msgr. Jan Hendriks as auxiliary bishop and the retirement of Msgr. Jan van Burgsteden as his predecessor, Bishop Jos Punt of Haarlem-Amsterdam published the following ‘Word from the Bishop’ on the diocesan website:

“Brothers and sisters,

With joy and gratitude I can inform you that Pope Benedict XVI has appointed a new auxiliary bishop for our diocese. He is Msgr. Dr. J.W.M. Hendriks, until now the rector of the diocesan seminary and delegate for ecclesial education in our diocese. He is 57 years years old, has great pastoral, administrative and scientific experience and enjoys wide familiarity and appreciation in our diocese. I have all confidence that in his new office he will equally be of major value for our diocese.

Earlier I had asked the Holy Father to appoint a new auxiliary bishop as successor of Msgr. J.G.M. van Burgsteden s.s.s., who reached the age of 75 on 8 December 2010, and by now has been serving in ‘extra time’ for almost a year. I am extraordinary grateful to Msgr. van Burgsteden for all the good that he has done for our diocese in the past 11 years. In that time he has won a valued place in the hearts of many, and certainly also in mine. I am pleased that he has indicated that he wishes to fulfill a few duties for our diocese as emeritus bishop.

The consecration of Msgr. Hendriks and the ‘farewell’ of Msgr. van Burgsteden will take place on Saturday 10 December 2011. The ceremony will begin at 11:00 in the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Bavo in Haarlem. Subsequently there will be time to  wish the departing and the new auxiliary bishop well.

Considering that the consecration and the farewell take place fairly close to New Year’s Eve, you will understand that we also take the opportunity to already share our best wishes with the bishops and each other. There will therefore be no separate new year’s reception in January 2012.

In these weeks of preparation I ask your special prayer for Msgr. Jan Hendriks and for our diocese. I very much hope that 10 December may be a festive day for our diocese and that many of you will want to celebrate with us. Everyone is very much invited.”

+Mgr. Dr. Jozef M. Punt
Bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam

Photo credit: RKK/Robbert Jan Bron

A long expected appointment

Bishop elect Jan Hendriks in the courtyard of the Tiltenberg seminary

Earlier today, several news channels broke the news that Msgr. Dr. Johannes Willibrordus Maria (Jan for short) Hendriks has been appointed as the new auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam. Katholiek Nieuwsblad and Rorate both published the appointment about 90 minutes before the usual embargo was lifted at noon. Katholiek Nieuwsblad evidently realised their error and retracted the news item, before republishing it at the proper time.

The appointment comes as virtually no surprise. The name of Hendriks widely circulated when Rotterdam became vacant earlier this year, and some also mentioned him for Breda, which remains vacant still. Msgr. Hendriks is a priest of the Diocese of Rotterdam, although he has been working in the neighbouring Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam for years, most recently as rector of the Tiltenberg seminary, canon of the cathedral chapter, and canon lawyer for the legal court of Haarlem-Amsterdam. Since 2004, he has also been a consultor for the Congregation for the Clergy.

The bishop elect is a productive author, having written books and articles about such topics as canon law, the Blessed Virgin, celibacy, Vatican II and education, and various others.

The new auxiliary bishop succeeds Bishop Jan van Burgsteden, whose retirement was approved at the same time at Msgr. Hendriks’ appointment. The amiable and much-loved Van Burgsteden has been auxiliary bishop since 2000, and turned 75 in December. Despite his age, he travelled down to Madrid for August’s World Youth Days and would probably be able to function a while longer as auxiliary.

As auxiliary bishop, Msgr. Hendriks will hold the titular see of Arsacal, located in modern Algeria. The date of his consecration is announced as 10 December, but whether or not it can take place in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Bavo, which is undergoing extensive restorations, remains to be seen.

As motto, the bishop elect chose a quote from the Gospel of John: “Quodcumque dixerit vobis, facite” (“Do whatever He tells you”).

And lastly for now, fittingly for an active Facebook user, Msgr. Hendriks releases his first statement via that medium: “Today it’s been announced that I have been appointed as auxiliary bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam, with Arsacal as titular see. Heartfelt thanks to all who pray for me and wished me well.”

The bishop, clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam have received a kindhearted and intelligent auxiliary bishop and vicar general who will undoubtedly prove to be an able shepherd for the Church.

Photo credit: RKK

Shepherding the Synod

As next year major Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation slowly creeps closer, the Holy See appoints prelates to make sure the entire affair proceeds smoothly. One of the more important jobs, certainly the most visible, is that of Relator-General, in essence the spokesman for the Synod.

The Relator-General is responsible for the main opening address, and also for collecting the conclusions and results of the Synod for its final message and ultimately the ultimate papal document, today still some three or four years away.

For past Synods, the Holy Father has appointed prelates which subsequently received high postings in Rome, prelates held in high esteem by the pope. Among these illustrious names are those of Cardinal Angelo Scola (who was moved from Venice to Milan this year), Cardinal Peter Turkson (called to Rome to head the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace), and Cardinal Marc Ouellet (now heading the Congregation of Bishops).

The latest name on this list, appointed to be the Relator-General for the 2012 Synod, is that of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington DC, United States (pictured at right having a laugh shortly before his elevation to cardinal last November). Rocco Palmo has more on the cardinal, who received the red hat last November.

Another important role in the Synod is that of the Secretary, who records the goings-on of the Synod and as such plays a vital role for the Relator-General too. Appointed for that job is Msgr. Pierre-Marie Carré (left), the archbishop of Montpellier, France. Msgr. Carré has been an archbishop since 2000, first of Albi, and since May 2010 as Coadjutor Archbishop of Montpellier. In June of this year he took over the reins from Archbishop Guy Thomazeau.

Two fairly recent appointments, a recently-created cardinal and a fairly recently-appointed archbishop, given high-profile duties at a Synod of Bishops from the entire worldwide Church. Ones to watch, I would say.

Photo credit: [1] Alex Wong/Getty Images,  [2] Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images