Behind the Gänswein consecration

gänswein Although much of the attention was on the prefect of the house, there was more in today’s ceremonies at St. Peter’s Basilica.

It was the Gänswein Show, certainly, but not only that. The popular new Prefect of the Papal Household was made an archbishop yesterday, but so were three others: Fortunatus Nwachukwu, the former Head of  Protocol at the Secretariat of State who will take up duties as Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua; Nicolas Thevenin, formerly a Protonotary in the Apostolic Household and now the new Nuncio to Guatemala; and Angelo Zani, the new Secretary for the Congregation for Catholic Education.

The four new archbishops were consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI, with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Zenon Grocholewski serving as co-consecrators. And it is from the former of these that the meat of the day comes: like previous Epiphany homilies, this year‘s again strongly ties the office of bishops into the feast of the Epiphany. Taking the Epiphany as the feast of the destination of the pilgrimage of the people of God, the Pope writes, “It is the task of the Bishop in this pilgrimage not merely to walk beside the others, but to go before them, showing the way.”

The Holy Father than poses the concrete question of whether we can see the Magi as examples of “what a Bishop is and how he is to carry out his task.”

“Here we come to the question: What sort of man must he be, upon whom hands are laid in episcopal ordination in the Church of Jesus Christ? We can say that he must above all be a man concerned for God, for only then will he also be truly concerned about men. Inversely, we could also say that a Bishop must be a man concerned for others, one who is concerned about what happens to them. He must be a man for others. But he can only truly be so if he is a man seized by God, if concern for God has also become for him concern for God’s creature who is man. Like the Wise Men from the East, a Bishop must not be someone who merely does his job and is content with that. No, he must be gripped by God’s concern for men and women. He must in some way think and feel with God. Human beings have an innate restlessness for God, but this restlessness is a participation in God’s own restlessness for us. Since God is concerned about us, he follows us even to the crib, even to the Cross. “Thou with weary steps hast sought me, crucified hast dearly bought me, may thy pains not be in vain”, the Church prays in the Dies Irae. The restlessness of men for God and hence the restlessness of God for men must unsettle the Bishop. This is what we mean when we say that, above all else, the Bishop must be a man of faith. For faith is nothing less than being interiorly seized by God, something which guides us along the pathways of life. Faith draws us into a state of being seized by the restlessness of God and it makes us pilgrims who are on an inner journey towards the true King of the world and his promise of justice, truth and love. On this pilgrimage the Bishop must go ahead, he must be the guide pointing out to men and women the way to faith, hope and love.”

epiphany consecration

There’s plenty more food for thought, and not only for bishops, in the homily. Read the English text via the link above, or a Dutch translation via here.


Full agenda – no ad limina for the Dutch bishops in 2013?

lorenzo baldisseriArchbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri (pictured), the secretary of the Congregation for Bishops, has announced that Pope Benedict XVI has completed his first cycle of ad limina visits by the world’s bishops. Although there is no set schedule by which bishops’ conferences come to Rome for the weeklong meetings with Pope and Curia, this year’s planned meetings with the Italian episcopate do mean a return to the start: the Italians were among the first to meet with Pope Benedict in 2006.

But this does leave us with one questions: what about the Dutch? Despite Archbishop Baldisseri’s announcement, the Dutch bishops have in fact not made their ad limina under the current papacy. Their last was in 2004, when Blessed John Paul II was still Pope.

Catholic News Service, who published the news today, have stated they have not yet been able to contact anyone at the Vatican about this, but will amend their report if and when they do.

In April of last year, I wrote about Bishop Jos Punt’s speculation that he and the other Dutch bishops would be travelling to Rome sometime in 2013. Perhaps the Holy See will be able to squeeze them in among the Italians, but Archbishop Baldisseri has said that the Italian ad limina, coupled with Year of Faith activities and the agendas of local bishops preclude any other ad limina visits this year. If true, and the Dutch bishops will have to wait until 2014, there will be an enormous ten-year gap between visits.

Edit: Following this blog’s noticing that the Dutch bishops were seemingly overlooked for an ad limina visit, Archbishop Baldisseri, after an enquery by the Catholic News Service, explained that his Congregation had been informed by the Prefecture of the Papal Household that the cycle of ad limina visits was complete. “But now it seems that with the Netherlands, something happened,” he said. A visit still seems to be scheduled for either later this year or early in 2014.