Christian unity, conversion and transformation by God

During his general audience, two days ago, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, a topic whose goal sometimes seems almost impossible to achieve by mere mortals. But, the pope says, it is not in our hands, but “in the hands of the Risen Christ”. Which, obviously does not mean we need not do anything to work towards full unity between all Christians. Quoting Blessed Pope John Paul II’s Ut unum sint, the Holy Father shows that ecumenism and the road to full communion lies “at the center of the Church’s life and work”.

If we fail to recognise this, we may gather from these words, the damage that the division among Christians does to the proclamation of the Gospel of the Lord will remain.

Go read my translation of the entire address.

Photo credit: Reuters/Tony Gentile

Advertisements

Of different priorities – or, what actually matters most?

With Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone at his side, Pope Benedict poses with the diplomats accredited to the Holy See

I don’t know how it is from  different nationality’s point of view, but from mine it certainly seems that the secular media have latched on to the pope’s New Year’s address to the diplomatic corps, given yesterday. A shame they didn’t latch on to all of it, or they might have discovered such interesting topics as the financial crisis, the youth, world stability and peace, education, development, religious freedom, and respect for the environment. Instead, far too many reporters and editors took (parts of) the following passage to make into headlines:

“In addition to a clear goal, that of leading young people to a full knowledge of reality and thus of truth, education needs settings. Among these, pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman. This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself. The family unit is fundamental for the educational process and for the development both of individuals and States; hence there is a need for policies which promote the family and aid social cohesion and dialogue. It is in the family that we become open to the world and to life and, as I pointed out during my visit to Croatia, “openness to life is a sign of openness to the future” (Address at National Day for Families, Zagreb, Croatia, 5 June 2011). In this context of openness to life, I note with satisfaction the recent sentence of the Court of Justice of the European Union forbidding patenting processes relative to human embryonic stem cells, as well as the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe condemning prenatal selection on the basis of sex.”

“Pope condemns same-sex marriage” they screamed, and “Gay marriage destroys society”. That’s certainly one way to completely miss the point and misrepresent the Holy Father and what he said. And, I fear, it is indicative of the modern obsession with liberal sexuality in which everything is allowed, as long as it feels good and doesn’t immediately harm anyone.

Anyway, if you want to know what the pope actually says, go read his words.

Photo credit: Stefano Carofei-Pool/Getty Images

Recommended: the CDF Note for the Year of Faith

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has produced an extensive Note with recommendations for the upcoming Year of Faith, scheduled to open in October of this year. The Note gives practical hand and feet to the overriding theme of the Year and links it firmly with Pope Benedict’s XVI efforts to promote the new evangelisation. Also important in this respect is the Second Vatican Council and its 50th anniversary, later this year.

The Note gives recommendations in several levels – international and local – which are also applicable to us individual faithful and bloggers, too.

I have translated the Note, and suggest everyone give it a good read.

And as far as that translation, which took several days, is concerned, I want to mention the excellent resource of RKdocumenten.nl, which offers translations of many Catholic documents, and the translation efforts of Father Chr. van Buijtenen, the Sorores Christi, Drs. H.M.G. Kretzers, who translated documents which are extensively quoted in the Note. I used their translations as they are featured on RKdocumenten.nl.

“The great star, the true supernova” – Pope Benedict on the feast of Epiphany

Every year on the feast of Epiphany, Pope Benedict XVI, like his predecessor, ordains several new bishops himself. These are almost always bishops who will be working in the Holy See’s diplomatic corps. Yesterday, two men where ordained in St. Peter’s: Archbishop Charles Brown, the new Nuncio to Ireland, and Archbishop Marek Solczynski, who will be the Nuncio in Georgia and Armenia.

The pope’s homily, available in Dutch here, is once more an excellent reflection on the nature of the feast and what is has to  say about the ministry of bishops. A worthwhile read, which also delves into the Magi and the incarnation of God.

Archbishop Brown and the holy father after the former's consecration

Photo credit: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

With apologies for being late, Pope Benedict announces 22 new cardinals

After a busy morning in which he consecrated Archbishops Charles Brown and Marek Solczyński during today’s Epiphany Mass, the Holy Father appeared a bit later than usual for his noon Angelus address. He quickly moved to the big event that was already causing a considerable buzz among Catholics – journalists and otherwise – on Twitter: the announcement of a consistory on 18 February in which no less than 22 new cardinals – among them 18 electors – will be created.

Soon swapping the purple for red, Archbishop Eijk will be in need of a new official portrait

There are a few big names in the list, but standing out for us here in the Netherlands is that of Archbishop Willem Jacobus Eijk. Three years after his arrival in Utrecht, he will become the metropolitan see’s fifth cardinal in a row. Turning 59 in June, Cardinal-designate Eijk will be able to participate in at least two conclaves, I would think (unless the sucessor of Pope Benedict will pull a JPII and remain on the seat of St. Peter for 20 years or more).

The selection of Archbishop Eijk was not unexpected. His name was already mentioned in the run-up to the November 2010 consistory, but the 80th birthday of Cardinal Simonis, the only Dutch elector, cleared the way for Eijk to succeed him in the College of Cardinals. With the title of cardinal comes, of course, a title church in Rome and a whole bag of expectations. And certainly the local media, which has been seeing the Church and the archbishop in the light of the abuse crisis, will be asking a whole heap of questions about Eijk’s suitability for the red hat. But these are questions being asked too late. A candidate’s suitability as cardinal flows from his suitability as bishop or priest. Added to that is the issue of the College of Cardinals reflecting the world Church and the importance of a see or curial position reflected in a cardinal title. The Archdiocese of Utrecht under the guidance of Archbishop Eijk is, in the mind of the pope and most likely also in light of the future, deserving of a cardinal at the helm.

Here is the full list of future cardinals:

  • Fernando Filoni, 65, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of People
  • João Bráz de Aviz, 64, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  • Manuel Monteiro de Castro, 73, Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary (only appointed as such yesterday!)
  • Giuseppe Bertello, 69, President of the Governorate of Vatican City State
  • Domenico Calcagno, 69, President of the Administration of the Patrimony of theApostolic See
  • Giuseppe Versaldi, 68, President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See
  • Santos Abril y Castelló, 76, Vice-Chamberlain of the Apostolic Chamber and Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major
  • Edwin Frederick O’Brien, 72, Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
  • Antonio Maria Vegliò, 74, President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
  • Francesco Coccopalmerio, 73, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
  • Giuseppe Betori, 65, Archbishop of Firenze
  • George Alencherry, 66, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly
  • Thomas Christopher Collins, 65, Archbishop of Toronto
  • Willem Jacobus Eijk, 58, Archbishop of Utrecht
  • John Tong Hon, 72, Bishop of Hong Kong
  • Rainer Maria Woelki, 55, Archbishop of Berlin (the youngest member of the College of Cardinals)
  • Timothy Michael Dolan, 62, Archbishop of New York
  • Dominik Jaroslav Duka, 68, Archbishop of Prague
  • Prosper Grech, 86, Priest of the Order of St. Augustine
  • Karl Josef Becker, 83, Priest of the Society of Jesus
  • Lucian Muresan, 80, Major Archbishop of Fagaras si Alba Iulia (Romanian)
  • Julien Ries, 91, Priest of Namur, Belgium

This consistory is a fairly Italian affair. With 7 new cardinals, Italy easily overtakes the United States and Germany, which each gain two cardinals (Dolan and O’Brien; Woelki and Becker), Brazil (Bráz de Aviz), Portugal (Monteiro de Castro), Spain (Abril y Castelló), India (Alencherry), Canada (Collins), the Netherlands (Eijk), China (Tong Hon), the Czech Republic (Duka), Malta (Grech), Romania (Muresan) and Belgium (Ries) each have one new cardinal.

Four of the cardinal-designates: Filoni, Ries, Woelki and Duka

Red Dawn Epiphany?

And so the rumour mill sputters to life this Epiphany morning. At the month of this writing, Pope Benedict XVI is offering the consecration Mass of two new archbishops who will be sent out as Papal Nuncios (among them the new Nuncio to Ireland), but if those in the know (such as the usually well-informed Andrea Tornielli and Rocco Palmo) are right, the Holy Father will announce the names of some 15 new cardinals during noon’s Angelus. An expected date of 19 February for a consistory has long been taken as fact, but the announcement  was not expected until almost two weeks from now.

Among the rumoured names are a number of curial prelates and archbishop ordinaries who were also on the list for the previous consistories of November 2010. One of these is our own Archbishop Wim Eijk. There are currently no Dutch cardinal electors, so based on that alone his elevation seems a matter of time. Still, we’ll know more at noon. I guess there will be much to blog about.

In the meantime, let’s not forget the reason for the day of Epiphany: God revealed His incarnation to the world, showing us all the path we must go to our salvation. May the new cardinals help steer the ship of the Church on that narrow and often stormy path.