Guiding the Synod – the presidents-delegate

As the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation comes ever closer, the Holy Father today appointed three president-delegates. As this official page explains the duties of the president-delegates are:

1: to guide the workings of the Synod according to the faculties entrusted to him in the letter of delegation, following the agenda and observing the procedural norms set down in this Ordo;
2: to assign to certain Members, when deemed opportune, particular tasks, so that the Assembly might better proceed with its work;
3: to sign the Acts of the Assembly. If there are several President-Delegates, all sign the Acts concluding the Assembly.

In other words, they are ultimately responsible for how the Assembly functions on a day-to-day basis, with a special focus on the individual competencies of the participating bishops. The president-delegates for this fall’s Assembly are John Cardinal Tong Hon, bishop of Hong Kong; Francisco Cardinal Robles Ortega, archbishop of Guadalajara; and Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya (pictured), archbishop of Kinshasa.

Together with the general rapporteur, Donald Cardinal Wuerl, and the special secretary, Archbishop Pierre-Marie Carré, they represent five continents. A reflection, perhaps, of the international nature of the Synod.

A sad case – press statements about the Heel affair

Various other news sources have already reported about the conclusion from an investigation into a series of unexplained deaths of young boys at a Catholic institute (pictured) for mentally handicapped boys in the 1950s. It is a story of people not taking responsibility, both in the institute, the Diocese of Roermond and the Labour Inspection office of the government. The guilty party has been identified as one Brother Andreas, now deceased, who was not qualified to treat the boys in question, but the medical doctor and rector of the institute, which was run by the Brothers of Charity, also must be considered (partly) responsible. The same may also go for several diocesan officials, who ordered a limited investigation, but decided not to do anything with the results.

Following the extensive investigation into sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church in the Netherlands, conducted by the Deetman Committee, the Public Prosecutor started an investigation into what happened all those years ago. No one involved, alive or not, can be legally prosecuted because of the passage of time.

For the sake of completeness, and for the use of anyone interested, here follows the English translation of the press release of the Diocese of Roermond concerning this matter:

The Diocese of Roermond has taken notice of the results of the Public Prosecutor’s criminal investigation concerning the St. Joseph’s Institute in Heel in the 1950s, released today (Thursday 28 June). The report’s conclusion are considered as shocking.

The diocese finds it inexplicable that the diocese made no report to the authorities and regrets that the investigation did not clarify the motives. Nevertheless, the fact that all means were used to reach a balanced perception of the events at the time is laudable.

The diocese especially wishes to pay attention to the suffering of the victims and the sorrows of their relatives.

The Conference of Dutch Religious released a more extensive, if broadly similar press statement, adding that no further investigation will be undertaken into the actions (or lack thereof) of the medical doctor and others involved. In a way that’s understandable, since none of those people are alive today, but I can’t help thinking that this Brother Andreas is presented as a scapegoat. But consider his membership of the Brothers of Charity and his function with the institute, there are superiors who must share in the responsibility.

Photo credit: ANP

Quo vadis?

On this day on which the Church celebrates two of her foundation stones, and 44 successors of these stones receive the signs of the fullness of their episcopacy, it is good to ask ourselves the question that, tradition tells us, Saint Peter asked the Lord, when he encountered Him on the road leading out of Rome. As Peter was fleeing the persecutions he suffered in the city, the Lord came towards him, heading back to where Peter came from. “Lord, where are You going?”, seemingly less surprised at meeting Jesus than at seeing Him head in a direction where He would be less than welcome.

Peter’s question is also our question. Peter was afraid, and we are also often afraid of the consequences that an active Christian life brings. After all, it is rarely in line with society’s thinking, and may provoke misunderstanding, even hostility. But we should remember that our Christian life is not a road that we have to find alone. We are following someone. Jesus Christ has gone this road before. Therefore, we should not hesitate to ask HIm, if things get tough or painful, “Lord, where are you going?” And wherever He goes, we will go with Him, knowing that we are not alone, whatever befalls us, good or bad. Jesus goes the road ahead of us, even if we hesitate, take a wrong turn or double back.

Saint Peter has shown us this. Upon meeting Jesus on the road, He understood that He was a follower of Christ, and found the courage to go where He went before Him.

“I am going to Rome, to be crucified again.”

Art credit: Domine, quo vadis? by Annibale Carracci (1602)

Country by country – a new nuncio for the north

After almost six months, the Nordic countries are once again supplied with an official ambassador from the Holy See. This new Apostolic Nuncio is Archbishop Henryk Józef Nowacki, until today the Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua.

Appointed today to Sweden and Iceland – Denmark, Norway and Finland will almost certainly follow in due course – 65-year-old Archbishop Nowacki is of German descent and was ordained a priest for the Polish Diocese of Tarnów in 1970. In 1983, he began to work in the Holy See’s diplomatic service in Paraguay and Angola, and later at the Secretariat of State in Rome. In 2001, he became the Nuncio to Slovakia and was given the titular see of Blera near Rome. He was consecrated by Blessed Pope John Paul II. In 2007, he was appointed to Nicaragua, and today his third posting followed.

Archbishop Nowacki came under fire in 2007 when he was identified as a Communist collaborator in the 1970s. Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the archbishop of Kraków, came strongly to his defence, but nothing more seems to have come from the affair. Both Dziwisz and Blessed John Paul II seemed to consider or have considered Archbishop Nowacki an industrious and loyal collaborator and friend. This latest appointment certainly does not seem to indicate a change in that opinion from the part of Pope Benedict XVI.

Photo credit: Ján Duda

Towards sainthood – ‘Holy Dean of Sittard’ declared Venerable

On today’s list that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints regularly publishes to announce the names of people whose miracles, martyrdoms or heroic virtues have officially been recognised by the Church and confirmed by the pope is the name of a Dutch priest: Father Louis Tijssen (1865-1929), the ‘Holy Dean of Sittard’.

The announcement comes some six months after the remains of Fr. Tijssen were reinterred in the church of Saint Peter in Sittard, Diocese of Roermond. This exhumation was part of the process to come to a future beatification or even canonisation of the beloved priest, whose life was considered exemplary by many around him (confirmed now by the Church), even when he was still alive. The remains were confirmed to be those of Fr. Tijssen, and his new resting place within the church will better allow future pilgrimages and veneration.

Venerable – as we may now refer to him – Louis Tijssen was born in 1865 and ordained a priest in 1888. He taught at the diocesan seminary of Rolduc and was appointed as parish priest of Susteren in 1911. In 1919, he was appointed as Dean of Sittard. He died there in 1929. People admired him for his devout prayer life and priestly ministry. Several prayers were answered upon his intercession and his beatification process was opened in 1957. All we need now, as the diocese notes, is a miracle.

The last Dutchman to be canonised was Saint Charles of Mount Argus, a Passionist priest, also from the Diocese of Roermond, who worked mainly in Ireland. He was declared a saint in 2007.

The Pallium Squad

Below is this year’s list of recipients of the pallium, the woollen band of office denoting their being metropolitan archbishops. As always, the Holy Father will be handing the pallia out on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, 29 June, although the ceremony is somewhat changed this year: to make the ceremony shorter, and, like the most recent consistory, to avoid any suggestion that it is a sacramental rite. Whereas the imposition of the pallia previously took place during a Eucharistic celebration, after the homily, it will now be moved to before the Mass. As the Holy See press office explains: “Indeed, the rites which take place during a Eucharistic celebration following the homily are normally Sacramental rites: Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, Matrimony, Anointing of the Sick. The imposition of the pallium, on the other hand, is not Sacramental in nature”.


  • Ignatius Chama, Kasama, Zambia
  • Alfred Martins,  Lagos, Nigeria
  • Benedito Roberto C.S.Sp., Malanje, Angola
  • Gabriel Yaw Anokye, Kumasi, Ghana


  • Abp. D’Rozario

    Jose Advincula, Capiz, Philippines

  • Joseph Coutts, Karachi, Pakistan
  • Patrick D’Rozario C.S.C., Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Thomas D’Souza, Calcutta, India
  • John Du, Palo, Philippines
  • John Moolachira, Guwahati, India
  • Luis  Tagle, Manila, Philippines
  • Romulo Valles, Davao, Philippines
  • Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, Seoul, Korea


  • Stanisław Budzik, Lublin, Poland
  • Waclaw Depo, Czestochowa, Poland
  • Arrigo Miglio, Cagliari, Italy
  • Francesco Moraglia, Venice, Italy
  • Filippo Santoro, Taranto, Italy
  • Wiktor Skworc, Katowice, Poland
  • Pascal Wintzer, Poitiers, France
  • Rainer Cardinal Woelki, Berlin, Germany

North America

  • Samuel Aquila, Denver, United States
  • Jesus Cabrero Romero, San Luis Potosí, Mexico
  • Charles Chaput O.F.M., Philadelphia, United States
  • Luc Cyr, Sherbrooke, Canada
  • Paul-André Durocher, Gatineau, Canada
  • Joseph Harris C.S.Sp., Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
  • Abp. Lépine

    Christian Lépine, Montreal, Canada

  • William Lori, Baltimore, United States
  • Mario Alberto Molina Palma O.A.R., Los Altos, Quetzaltenango-Totonicapan, Guatemala
  • Francisco Cardinal Robles Ortega, Guadalajara, Mexico
  • William Skurla, Pittsburgh of the Byzantines, United States
  • Valery Vienneau, Moncton, Canada


  • Mark Coleridge, Brisbane, Australia
  • Timothy Costelloe S.D.B., Perth, Australia
  • Francesco Panfilo S.D.B., Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

South America

  • Esmeraldo Barreto de Farias, Porto Velho, Brazil
  • Jacinto Furtado de Brito Sobrinho, Teresina, Brazil
  • Airton dos Santos, Campinas, Brazil
  • Ulises Gutiérrez Reyes O. de M., Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela
  • Wilson Jonck S.C.I., Florianópolis, Brazil
  • Paulo Mendes Peixoto, Uberaba, Brazil
  • Salvador Piñeiro García-Calderón, Ayacucho o Huamanga, Peru
  • Jose Rezende Dias, Niterói, Brazil
  • Jaime Vieira Rocha, Natal, Brazil
  • Alfredo Zecca, Tucuman, Argentina

All but two of the archbishops above will be at the ceremony on Rome this Friday. Archbishops Yaw Anokye and Vienneau will receive their pallia at their own cathedrals.

A new episode of changes in the curia (part 1?)

And we’re up for another round of curial changes, as prelates retire from their offices and are replaced by new names. While many Vaticanistas are eagerly awaiting the appointment of a new prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (currently headed by 76-year-old Cardinal Levada) and even a new Secretary of State (Cardinal Bertone, the incumbent, is now 77), today we see a number of appointments which may not be as high-profile, but no less important.

Arguably the third-most important Congregation, that of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, sees a switch in secretaries. American Archbishop Joseph Di Noia is leaving to become vice-president of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, directly assisting Cardinal Levada. Succeeding him at Divine Worship is English Bishop Arthur Roche (pictured at left), formerly of Leeds, who will be made an archbishop.

In the Congregation for Catholic Education, we note the departure of Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès. He had been that Congregation’s secretary since 2007, and will now take up duties as the archivist of the Vatican Secret Archives and librarian of the Vatican Apostolic Library. His predecessor, Cardinal Farina, had resigned for age reasons earlier this month.

In the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, Archbishop Piergiuseppe Vacchelli resigns as adjunct secretary. Succeeding him as the congregation’s third man, is Archbishop Protase Rugambwa (pictured, right), until today the ordinary of the Tanzanian Diocese of Kigoma.

Then, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli resigns as President of the Pontifical Council of the Family. He held the office since 2008. His successor is Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, until today bishop of the Italian Diocese of Terni-Narni-Amelia. With the office comes the personal title of archbishop.

In the Apostolic Penitentiary, one of the three tribunals of the Church, there is a new regent to succeed Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, who held the office since 2002. The new regent is Msgr. Krzysztof Nykiel, a Polish curial official.

In many ways, the Curia of the Catholic Church can be seen as a government, with ministries and secretaries. They are not only responsible for the daily affairs of the Church as institution, but also for essentially everything that has to do with the life of the Church and all her faithful. They give hand and feet to the Church’s eternal task of communicating and guarding the faith that has been given us. It is good for us Catholics to have a passing familiarity with the Curia.

The question now is… what will the coming weeks bring?