Dutch foreign secretary Frans Timmermans today appointed Prince Jaime de Bourbon de Parme as the next ambassador of the Netherlands to the Holy See. Prince Jaime is the cousin of King Willem-Alexander, and the son of Princess Beatrix’ sister Princess Irene. Via his father he is a descendent of the French royal house of Bourbon. Although the Holy See still needs to agree with the appointment, it is in several ways a unique one.
Not only is the prospective new ambassador of royal blood (although not a member of the royal house), he is also a Roman Catholic. That is unique among recent ambassadors to the Holy See, who have usually been Protestant, like the majority of the royal family.
At the moment, Prince Jaime works at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is one of twenty newly appointed Dutch ambassadors.
Current ambassador Jos Weterings arrived in Rome in October of 2011. When Prince Jaime’s appointment will be okayed by the Holy See and when he will take on his duties is as yet unknown.
Almost a year after his election, Pope Francis is still slowly but surely confirming the heads of the Curia departments. Yesterday it was the Pontifical Council for the Laity’s turn, a dicastery which Pope Francis is said to want to give a higher profile, maybe even raise it to full Congregation status. The Council is headed by Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko and has German Bishop Josef Clemens as Secretary and Spanish Msgr. Miguel Delgado Galindo as Undersecretary. The former two have been at the head of the Council for almost ten years.
Pope Francis also selected a fair number of new members and consultors for the Laity Council. And among these is our own Cardinal Wim Eijk. His seat on the Council is his fourth appointment in the Curia. He is also a board member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and a member of the Congregation for the Clergy and of the Congregation for Catholic Education.
In the media, the persons of Cardinal Eijk and Pope Francis are often placed opposite each other: the cardinal as the strict, emotionless ruler; and the Pope as the friendly, concerned father. Reality is quite different. Of course, both have different characters, but they are much closer in their vision than many would have us believe. There are those who are continuously waiting until Pope Francis removes Cardinal Eijk from his appointments in the Curia or even from his Archdiocese of Utrecht. In reality, the Pope has just confirmed his confidence in the cardinal.
Other new members include Reinhard Cardinal Marx of Munich, and among the consultors we find Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Bishop Christoph Hegge, auxiliary of Münster, and Dr. Marguerite Peeters of the Institute for Intercultural Dialogue Dynamics in Belgium.