In a letter published on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of the Clergy, taking place on the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 15 June this year, the Congregation for the Clergy writes a letter (translation)to the world’s priests. The letter, signed by the Congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza (pictured), and secretary Archbishop Celso Morga Iruzubieta, focusses on St. Paul’s appeal to all Christians: “This is the will of God: your holiness!” (1 Thess. 4:3).
The authors firmly relate the letter to the upcoming Year of Faith and the anniversaries of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and also the upcoming General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will focus on the new evangelisation. These latter three events must be the focus of priests everywhere in the framework of the Year of Faith.
The final paragraph outlines why priests especially need to be holy:
“Today’s world, with its ever more painful and preoccupying lacerations, needs God – The Trinity, and the Church has the task to proclaim Him. In order to fulfil this task, the Church must remain indissolubly embraced with Christ and never part from Him; it needs Saints who dwell “in the heart of Jesus” and are happy witnesses of God’s Trinitarian Love. And in order to serve the Church and the World, Priests need to be Saints!”
I received a letter yesterday, an invitation for the celebrations around the 125th anniversary, on 25 May, of the consecration of my parish church, the cathedral of Saints Joseph and Martin in Groningen . All ‘new Catholics’, people baptised or confirmed in the past ten years, received a similar invitation.
Wednesday 23 May, 8pm: Father Antoine Bodar speaks about the question of the relevancy of the Church: Should we just abolish the Church or take pride in our being Catholic. This talk is specifically aimed at students and young Catholics.
Friday 25 May, 2:30pm: Anniversary of the consecration of the church. For the elderly parishioners there will be a festive afternoon, and also the opening of a photo exhibit of the cathedral’s history. At 6:30pm the cathedral chapter will offer a Sung Vespers, and at 7pm there will be a High Mass during which Bishop Gerard de Korte will consecrate the new people’s altar.
Saturday 26 May, 2pm: An afternoon for young families, during which Ms. Carolijn van Voorst tot Voorst will speak about religious education in our time. Children will be able to go on a treasure hunt in the church.
Sunday 27 May, 11am: High Mass offered by Bishop de Korte and apostolic nuncio Archbishop André Dupuy. Mass will be followed by the official presentation of a memorial book of the church’s history. At 5pm there will be an ecumenical Vespers with the bishop and ministers of the various church communities in the city.
Friday 1 June, 5 pm: Official reception for all the volunteers of the parish.
I’m especially looking forward to Fr. Bodar’s talk, the photo exhibit, the new altar, the High Mass on Sunday and the book.
A church, especially the church where one was baptised and confirmed and received the other sacraments, is not just a building. It is a home of sorts. The home of Christ, certainly, but therefore also a home for us. With the other parishioners and the clergy attached to the church we form a family. The cathedral in Groningen has been a home for me for more than five years now, which is nothing compared to the 125 years that it has been a home for others, but its celebration is also that of me and the parish I am a part of.
In a fairly unprecedented move, Pope Benedict XVI interfered in the affairs of a local bishops’ conference earlier this month, when he wrote a letter (translation) to the German Bishops’ Conference via Archbishop Robert Zollitsch (and through them also to the other bishops of the entire German speaking area).
Like other conferences, the bishops of Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein are working on a new translation of the Roman Missal. Whereas the new English translation was launched last Advent, there are still many other languages awaiting new translations.
The issue that divides the German bishops and that prompted the pope to write a five-page letter, revolves around two words in the Eucharistic Prayer. The Latin, from which all translations are made, has the words “pro multis” to indicate for whom Jesus suffered and died. In the translations of the 1960s and 70s, this was rendered as “for all”, out of a wish to interpret the words in a way that would do most justice to the original. Or so translators thought. The Holy Father now indicates that this line of thought has since fallen out of favour and argues strongly against interpretative translations. Interpreting Scripture is one of the main tasks of the Church, but this should happen in the churches, by the bishops and the priests, not by the translators. Bishops and priests can react quickly and specifically to the needs to their specific faithful, whereas translations usually remain the same for years on end. Translation of Scripture and the canon of the Mass should therefore remain as literal as possible. “Pro multis”, then, should be translated as “for many”.
The letter goes into some detail about the questions that this change may give rise to, and also about the theological backgrounds of each choice. Although specifically directed at the German situation, the same arguments can and will be made in other countries, including the Netherlands, which still await a new translation.
In the runup towards the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, next Sunday, the Archdiocese of Utrecht’s vocations council announces the release of their Vocations app. It is is for now only available for Android users, and can be downloaded here.
The Dutch-language app is mainly informative, containing a list of frequently asked questions about the priesthood, vocations and discernment, as well as an interview with Fr. Patrick Kuipers, chairman of the vocations council.
About the app, which was designed and built by four students from the Saxion University of Applied Sciences in Enschede, Fr. Kuipers says:
“I hope that this app will lead more young people to think about the question if the priesthood is for them. There is, in any case, now an easily accessible, modern means, without obligation, to give some initial information about a vocation to the priesthood to interested people.”
In a rare appearance of the open combox, Whispers in the Loggia asks what all this social media malarkey actually does for us:
“How do they help on the ground? When are they at their best (and, indeed, their worst)? What more could they do to live up to their highest potential? Or, conversely, what difference would it make if they all just up and vanished?”
Here’s my answer, cross-posted from the comments thread in Rocco Palmo’s exemplary blog:
“I’m a 33-year-old lay Catholic blogger from the Netherlands, have been blogging for little over two years now (well, on Catholic topics at least), and I also use Twitter and Facebook. That’s really it for social media, but I find that not jumping into every new experiment, network or what have you, helps to keep things focussed. The blog is the main thing for me.
I use social media, in the first place, privately. I like blogging and if others find what I write interesting; all the better. It’s tool to keep myself up to date on developments in the Church, and it also challenges me to keep thinking. Blogging’s no passive thing!
Generally speaking, social media on Catholic stuff shows me that I am a part of something big, practically and spiritually. I am not very much limited to my parish or even diocese: there is so much out there, in other dioceses, countries, Rome, elsewhere, that affects us and that we should be aware of and act on or against.
I would not want to miss it, because it serves a great purpose in my neck of the woods, especially when the official Church channels are cutting their budgets when it comes to communication. In that sense, I also feel a responsibility to communicate about faith and Church: if the ‘officials’ can’t do it, it falls to us. We can’t fall silent about our faith.”
Social media is an important frontier in the communication of our faith. The Church is slowly getting to grips with it, as are many faithful (many have been in the business for years already). It’s important to keep up the good work, but also to, every now and then, think about why we do it.
In a short message to the Pontifical Bible Commission (translation), Pope Benedict XVI addresses the topics of inspiration and truth in the Sacred Scriptures, and how both these elements are “constitutive characteristics of [their] nature”. He makes some very interesting points which we should keep in mind when reading the Bible and studying or applying the texts in it.
First, there is the following statement:
“[T]he topic of inspiration is decisive for the appropriate approach to the Sacred Scriptures. In fact, an interpretation of the sacred texts that neglects or forgets their inspiration does not take into account their most important and precious characteristic, that is, their provenance from God.”
Essentially, what the pope seems to be saying here, is that the inspiration of a Biblical text, that is its origin and source, as well as the process by how it came into being, should dictate how we read those texts. Sacred Scripture ultimately finds its source in God. That is not the same as saying that He personally dictated the words to whichever scribe first committed them to paper, but He is behind it, so to speak. His truth is in those words. They are His Word, written down by man. It is not a thesis by which someone tried to defend his position or ideas. It is not a human construct, and neither is it academic. The texts in the Bible are grounded in historical reality, a reality in which God played an important part. The texts, in their nature, are characterised by that reality.
“Because of the charism of inspiration, the books of Sacred Scripture have a direct and concrete force of appeal.”
Their inspiration gives the books of the Bible their living authority. The Holy Father writes that their relevance did not end at the death of the last Apostle, but it continued through the constant proclamation and interpretation through the ages.
“For this reason the Word of God fixed in the sacred texts is not an inert deposit inside the Church but becomes the supreme rule of her faith and power of life. The Tradition that draws its origin from the Apostles progresses with the assistance of the Holy Spirit and grows with the reflection and study of believers, with personal experience of the spiritual life and the preaching of Bishop.”
This process of interpretation occurred within the framework of the Tradition of the Church which, the Holy Father notes, has progressed with the assistance of the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost, and grows via four means: reflection, study, experience and preaching. ‘Reading the Bible’, then, engages the entire person, not just the intellect. We read or hear, we feel, think and, certainly not least, we experience.
The reference to “the preaching of the Bishop” is interesting in its own right. Just as the Apostles were the first to proclaim the Word of God in the Tradition that we still enjoy. This work was later performed by their successors: the bishops. Our Tradition is so much more than a collection of old habits and customs: it is a living organism built around the Word of God that we find in the Bible, but also in the Tradition, in its interpretation and truth.
“[I]t is essential and fundamental for the life and mission of the Church that the sacred texts are interpreted in keeping with their nature: Inspiration and Truth are constitutive characteristics of this nature.”
In the run-up to the previous consistory, we’ve heard often that one of the duties of cardinals is to aid the pope in all manner of Church-related affairs. Exactly how that takes shape became clear yesterday, as the new cardinals have been appointed to seats on various congregations, tribunals, councils and committees. Here follows a list of the dicasteries and the new cardinals that were assigned to them.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Cardinals Alencherry, Filoni and Coccopalmerio
Congregation for the Oriental Churches: Cardinals Alencherry, Dolan, Muresan, Filoni and O’Brien
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments: Cardinal Vegliò
Congregation for the Causes of the Saints: Cardinals Monteiro de Castro and Abril y Castelló
Congregation for Bishops: Cardinals Monteiro de Castro, Abril y Castelló, Bertello and Versaldi
Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples: Cardinals Tong Hon, Abril y Castelló, Bertello and Calcagno
Congregation for the Clergy: Cardinals Eijk and Braz de Aviz
Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life: Cardinals Duka and Versaldi
Congregation for Education: Cardinals Collins, Eijk, Betori, Woelki, Filoni, Braz de Aviz and O’Brien
Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura: Cardinals Coccopalmerio and Versaldi
Pontifical Council for the Laity: Cardinal Vegliò
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity: Cardinals Woelki and Coccopalmerio
Pontifical Council for the Family: Cardinal Vegliò
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: Cardinals Duka and Bertello
Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”: Cardinal O’Brien
Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People: Cardinal Monteiro de Castro
Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers: Cardinal Calcagno
Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue: Cardinal Tong Hon
Pontifical Council for Culture: Cardinal Betori
Pontifical Council for Social Communications: Cardinals Collins and Dolan
Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation: Cardinal Dolan
Pontifical Committee for the International Eucharistic Congresses: Cardinal Braz de Aviz
All the Church’s cardinals under the age of 80 (and some over 80) have one or more functions within the dicasteries of the Roman Curia. This is in addition to their regular duties as diocesan bishops or curial prelates. In practice it means that they’ll have to be in Rome a bit more often than before.
Our own Cardinal Eijk has been appointed to the Congregations for Clergy (responsible for all secular priests and deacons) and Education (seminaries and Catholic schools). He will than be in Rome for up to four times a year, as these dicasteries meet. Cardinal Eijk will not be needed in Rome for the day-to-day affairs of the Congregations and, even then, he will of course be able to do a significant amount of work from Utrecht.
These appointments form one of two steps that fully integrate new cardinals into the curia. The other step is the official taking possession of their title churches. This can take some time, sometimes up to a year after the consistory in which a cardinal was created. Of the latest batch, only Cardinals Filoni and Grech have done so. Cardinals Becker, Monteiro de Castro and Tong Hon will take possession of their churches today, and Cardinal Coccopalmerio will follow on Thursday. The dates for the other cardinals are not yet known.