A basilica for the capital

As accidentally announced on twitter yesterday, the news may now be revealed properly. Amsterdam’s “cathedral on the IJ” – the strikingly domed St. Nicholas church that greets visitors arriving in the nation’s capital as they exit the central train station – has been elevated to the status of basilica minor. The actual elevation is set for Vespers on the eve of 9 December, the day on which the festivities marking the 125th anniversary of the new basilica’s dedication will be rounded off. Archbishop André Dupuy, the apostolic nuncio will then read the official document in which the decision is outlined.

Haarlem-Amsterdam’s Bishop, Msgr. Jos Punt, together with the parish council of Amsterdam’s St. Nicholas parish, made the official request to the Congregation for Divine Worship in July. This congregation motivates her decision to grant the request with two arguments: the veneration of Saint Nicholas of Myra, patron saint of the city of Amsterdam; and the devotion to the Miracle of Amsterdam, which is still remembered annually by a night-time silent procession through the city’s heart.

Bishop Jan van Burgsteden, the retired auxiliary bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam who is responsible for the pastoral care in the parish, said: “This is the witness of a inspirational and missionary parish community. We hope that the Church and community may grow and flourish further in the years to come.” He referred to the many volunteers who kept the St. Nicholas alive and  thriving, even when secularisation forced the closure of many churches.

The elevation of the St. Nicholas raises the number of Dutch basilicas to 24, of which three are in the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam. The Archdiocese of Utrecht has eight, the Diocese of Breda three, Roermond six, Rotterdam one, and ‘s Hertogenbosch three. In the Caribbean Netherlands, the Diocese of Willemstad has one basilica.

The title of minor basilica is an honourific, a recognition of the import of a church building and of its value for the Catholic value using it. It also means that the church in question plays an exemplary role when it comes to pastoral care and liturgy.

The dean stands firm, but carnival Masses will continue in Eindhoven

In a welcome decision, Father René Wilmink, the dean of Eindhoven in the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch, took a stand against the ridiculisation of the Holy Mass. In discussion with the local carnival federation, Fr. Wilmink insisted that future carnival Masses – which are usually accompanied by priests dressed up, no sense of worthy reception of Holy Communion, and a general party atmosphere in the church – can only continue in his church of St. Catherine if they stay close to the heart of the faith.

A representative of the carnival club said: “In his case that means that we will no longer have a say about the liturgy and that there can’t  be any carnivalesque forms of expression on or around the altar or sanctuary”.

Is this guy for real? First of all, the liturgy belongs to the Church, not to a club of partygoers, and secondly, Fr. Wilmink doesn’t go his own way here, but that of the Church. In the celebration of the Mass, no one has any business in the sanctuary, unless they have a task to perform in the liturgy. And no, a clown, a juggler or a lector dressed up as a sailor have no business in the liturgy whatsoever. The Mass has a rather different focus and meaning.

Sadly, the Augustin fathers do welcome the carnival Mass in their church, which belongs to the Mariënhage monastery and as such falls outside the jurisdiction of the dean or the diocese (although, while the church in question remains the property of the Augustines, all pastoral care was handed to the city parish of Eindhoven some five years ago). The Augustine fathers are more than happy to “work with” the carnival federation “to preserve the carnival Mass for Eindhoven”.

Photo credit: [2] Image of the 2010 carnival Mass, Niels van Rooij