What with the celebration of Queen’s Day here in the Netherlands and the assorted social engagements that accompany it, I find little time to write something substantial about tomorrow’s big event: the beatification of Pope John Paul II, whom we may from then on call Blessed John Paul II. Luckily, several other bloggers and reporters are in Rome to share the amazing atmosphere in the eternal city with their readers. I happily link to them.
Father Roderick and Steve Nelson are in Rome for SQPN. They give a foretaste of the excitement and the crowds here. Anna Arco of the Catholic Herald shares her first Roman blog post to give an excellent overview of the events of today, including the closure of St. Peter’s Square at 1 this afternoon until 5:30 tomorrow. Finally, Rocco Palmo, of the excellent Whispers in the Loggia, offers several detailed posts about the preparations as well.
I will spend tomorrow morning in front of the tv. Dutch Catholic broadcaster RKK will start live coverage at 10 in the morning.
The Pontifical Council for Social Communications released the list of 150 bloggers selected for the first official Vatican blogmeet today. It is, as desired from the onset, an international selection of people writing from various perspectives and with various blogging goals. There are lay bloggers like me, clergy and proper journalists as well. Many are unknown to me, but it’s nice to see a fair number of familiar names.
Anna Arco of the Catholic Herald reports the following message from the Pontifical Council for Social Communications regarding the Vatican blogmeet of 2 May:
By 8am Monday morning we had received over 400 requests.. On Wednesday 13 April we will close the application process and sort out requests into categories of language, geography, typology etc. and where necessary we will draw lots to make the final selection. On Saturday a list of participants will be posted on http://www.pccs.va. We are heartened by the widespread interest, and ask you all to be patient with this effort to increase dialogue with the blogging community, and also to support us with your prayers.
Richard Rouse and Ariel Beramendi
It looks like the blogmeet, despite it being announced rather late, has garnered much interest in a pretty short time. As I wrote earlier, only about 150 people will be able to attend, and it’ll be interesting to see who will be selected to participate.
In the meantime, various Catholic bloggers are organising The *Other* Rome Blognic on the afternoon of 3 May. As far as I understand it, the reason for an alternate blogmeet is the fear that the so-called ‘Taliban Catholics’ won’t be heard or selected for the official meeting. This second blogmeet is presented as one that will be fun and that will actually be about something, essentially a meeting that will matter. In my eyes, it’s a rather premature conclusion to draw that only moderate bloggers will be invited to the official blogmeet, while those that tackle the difficult questions and are sometimes critical about Church leadership and policies will be ignored. And, added to that, I think that the official meeting should be embraced and supported by all bloggers, exactly because it is among the first tentative steps of the Vatican into the blogosphere. Hosting an alternate meeting will hardly do much good towards creating a unified blogging community working with the Church.
Later today, Pope Benedict XVI will board a plane and fly to Malta for a two-day pastoral visit. The program, missal and other important facts about the trip are or will be published by the Vatican here, and of course there are plenty of reporters tagging along. One of them is Anna Arco, who is already previewing the visit at her blog.
An item not on the program but which may be included nonetheless, is a meeting between the pope and Maltese victims of sexual abuse. A group of men who were abused as boys have already met with Archbishop Paul Cremona of Malta and they have requested to meet the pope as well. Archbishop Cremona said he would forward the request to the Vatican.
Pope Benedict XVI has met with victims of abuse in the past, most notable during his trips to the United States and Australia. Those meetings have always been private and never part of the program of the trip. While it is theoretically possible that the Holy Father meets with the men, a look at the program shows there won’t be much time for it. Maybe on Sunday afternoon, in between the luncheon and the farewell at the nunciature.
A point of minor concern is the virtually omnipresent ash cloud over Europe. Some airports in northern Italy are closing down today, but Rome is expected to remain open. If not, the pope could always follow the example of Saint Paul and travel to Rome by boat… But without a shipwreck on Malta, please.
Both Anna Arco and Father John Boyle write that Church attendance seems to have been up this Easter. I can certainly say the same when I look back at the Easter Vigil here in Groningen. The number of baptisms and confirmations was at a steady nine this year (although Pentecost will see some more, especially confirmations), but the cathedral especially was well filled. Some people stayed at home because of the rain, but they made up for it by making Mass on the Sunday morning well-attended.
Of course, this year Easter has been overshadowed by the crisis the Church finds herself in, a fact not ignored in the various homilies I heard. I am happy to see, though, that the media does not always succeed in its attacks on the Church or the pope (at least those that try). The letter composed by Eric van den Berg and Frank Bosman has reached over 1,000 signatures now, local parishioners interviewed outside the cathedral remained supportive of the pope and the Church, a short article in a local newspaper echoed the same, and last night Fr. Antoine Bodar offered a well-spoken defence of the pope on television.
Of course, some media got in a huff about the fact that the pope did not mention or apologise for the abuse during his Urbi et Orbi speech. Apparently, some believe that the pope must make renewed apologies at every public appearance. But at the same time they refuse to acknowledge the apologies he and others already have made. It’s a no-win situation and one best not given too much attention.
It’s a crazy Easter, but one that is not even close to being overwhelmed. The resurrection of Christ, His defeat of death, continues to shine brightly in our lives even if, as my bishop said, the Cross of Good Friday is still firmly present in the Church and in our hearts.
Below are a few more impressions of the Easter Vigil at St. Joseph’s cathedral in Groningen.
Numerous bloggers, especially those in the UK, have reported the news of the formal announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the UK from 16 to 19 September. There is an extensive website about the visit, offering all the details and then some.
Anna Arco has some comments from Keith Cardinal O’Brien, archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, and Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster.
American Papist, lastly, focusses on the great news that Pope Benedict XI will personally beatify Cardinal Newman in Birmingham.
From the Very Rev. Richard Duffield, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory and Actor of the cause of John Henry Newman come these words:
The Fathers and many friends of the English Oratories are delighted by the official announcement that our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI will beatify our founder, the Venerable John Henry Newman, in the Archdiocese of Birmingham during his visit to Britain in September. Newman made his home in the Archdiocese for all his adult life, first in Oxford, where he lived as an Anglican and was received into the Catholic Church, and later in Birmingham itself where he founded and worked in the Birmingham Oratory for over forty years.
The Holy Father’s life-long devotion to Newman has made a profound contribution to understanding the depth and significance of our founder’s legacy. His decision to beatify Newman in person confers a unique blessing upon the English Oratories and all who have drawn inspiration from Newman’s life and work.
The soon-to-be Blessed John Henry Newman also has a place in the banner at the top of my blog (he is the second from the right), since I consider him a great teacher, both knowledgeable and pastoral, especially for our often difficult times.