Cardinal Eijk joins ten other cardinals in a new book on marriage and family

staatsieportret20kardinaal20eijkUsually rather tight-lipped about the proceedings at and his own contributions to the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Wim Eijk is now said to be contributing to a book about marriage and family in the runup to the Synod assembly of October. He is joined by ten other prelates, cardinals all, and as such this new book can be compared to the five-cardinals book, Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church. Cardinal Eijk’s contribution will be based on his work at the previous Synod assembly last year.

Like the earlier book, this will take a position which underlines the role of doctrine in addition to mercy, contrary to some who consider the latter overruling the former. In truth, both are needed and can’t survive without the other.

In addition to Cardinal Eijk, the other contributing cardinals are:

  • Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop of of Bologna
  • Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankar Church
  • Paul Cordes, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”
  • Dominik Duka, Archbishop of Prague
  • Joachim Meisner, Archbishop emeritus of Cologne
  • John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja
  • Antonio Rouco Varela, Archbishop emeritus of Madrid
  • Camillo Ruini, Vicar General emeritus of Rome
  • Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
  • Jorge Urosa Savino, Archbishop of Caracas

The book is said to be criticising the “protestantisation” of the Church. What that means will remain to be seen, but we may expect a focus on the desire to adapt teaching to the wishes of interest groups and individual faithful under the guise of mercy, as we continuously see in the debates surrounding the Synod and its topics.

Immediate local reactions to the news (which for now is mostly hearsay, it has to be said) of Eijk’s involvement were not overly positive. Some see this as proof that the cardinal is in direct opposition to Pope Francis. If that’s true, the same must be said of the other contributors, some of whom were appointed by the Pope (Cardinal Sarah) or are known to enjoy his appreciation and esteem (Cardinal Caffarra), while others are not directly known for overly orthodox attitudes (Cardinal Duka). Pope Francis has asked for discussion, which includes opposing points of view. This is that discussion, and the Pope knows that full well. If his attitude towards the Curia is anything to go by, he is happy to let it do the work it exists for, and that includes defending the unpopular elements of the faith.

I am happy to see a high-profile contribution from a Dutch prelate on this topic, which has already made so many headlines in the blogosphere and Catholic media. We need more of that.

The book, titled Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family: Essays from a Pastoral Viewpoint, can be pre-ordered from Igantius Press here.

Looking to families: married couple to write meditations for papal Via Crucis

The Holy Father at the 2010 Stations at the Colosseum

For the first time in Pope Benedict XVI”s papacy, the reflections for the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum will be written by two lay people. Danilo and Anna Maria Zanzucchi are an Italian married couple founded the New Families Movement and will fittingly be writing their reflections with a focus on the family. Vatican Radio features a short interview with them.

As Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict wrote the reflections for Blessed John Paul II’s last Via Crucisin 2005, and he has continued the custom of selecting various people to write new meditations every year. Among these have been the vicar-general for Vatican City, Archbishop (now Cardinal) Angelo Comastri (2006), Msgr. (now Cardinal) Gianfranco Ravasi (2007),  Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun (2008), Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati, India (2009, Cardinal Camillo Ruini (2010) and Sister Maria Rita Piccione in 2011. From an initial trend to look beyond Rome, it now seems that the laity are being chosen. It’s perhaps a recognition of the fact that, when it comes to reflecting on the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, the Holy Spirit does not only work in the ordained.

Come Good Friday, the Stations of the Cross will once again feature prominently on this blog, although in what way, shape or form remains to be seen. In the meantime, remember that the Via Crucis is not limited to Good Friday. You can pray, walk and reflect upon Christ’s unimaginable sacrifice every day if you please.

Photo credit: Pool/Getty Images Europe

Rome’s crazy weekend

The prayer card of Blessed John Paul II released by the Diocese of Roermond

Rome is facing a rather busy weekend, with some 1 million visitors expected (of whom a fair number are arriving today and tomorrow) for an event that has been unmatched since the funeral of Pope John Paul II. It is therefore quite fitting that this same venerable pope is the focus of this weekend’s happenings as well.

For the first time in more than 1,000 years, a pope is being beatified by his immediate successor. And it could have happened even sooner, had Pope Benedict XVI not decided to have the regular process followed. Cardinal Ruini, vicar general of Rome and president of the Italian bishops’ conference during the conclave that elected the current pope, has recently said that he received a petition at the time signed by a significant number of cardinals, that called for the immediate canonisation of Pope John Paul II. Rather a gesture made in the heat of the moment, I would say. Still, six years since the death of the future Blessed is a very short time to reach beatification. But it is happening nonetheless.

The Belgian king and queen (kneeling) amid other heads of state during the funeral of Pope John Paul II

The Vatican has published the calendar of the beatification, which will take place on Sunday 1 May. As during his funeral, the beatification of John Paul II will be attended by numerous dignitaries from across the globe. King Albert II and Queen, as well as the prime minister will represent Belgium, a similar representation as during the funeral of the late pope. The Netherlands are also repeating their attendance at the funeral, with the smallest possible delegation. Did the prime minister attend the funeral, now only the Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Piet Hein Donner, will be present. I guess that, when it comes to relations with religions, especially the Catholic Church, the state of the Netherlands still does not really understand how things work.

Sadly, this minimal representation is also copied by the Church in the Netherlands. Cardinal Simonis is the only Dutch bishop in Rome this weekend. Simonis, the former archbishop of Utrecht and host to Pope John Paul II during his visit to the Netherlands in 1985, was created a cardinal in that same year, by the same pope. The other Dutch bishops will be in The Hague to celebrate a solemn High Mass to mark the sixth anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict XVI. A lofty purpose, certainly, but it leaves the Dutch presence, and thus the sign of importance attached not only to the beatification, but also to the person of Pope John Paul II, absolutely tiny.

Luckily, with the Vatican blogmeet happening a day after the canonisation, the beatification will be well-covered by the social media. Catholic bloggers and social media entrepeneurs such as Father Roderick, Rocco Palmo and Thomas Peters are in Rome to cover the events. Follow them and some of the other bloggers in my blogroll. I’m sure they will all have much to say about the events of the weekend.

Photo credit: [1] Diocese of Roermond, [2] White House/Eric Draper

The Stations of the Cross

Last night we commemorated the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas and His capture by Sanhedrin officials. All this following a night He spent in prayer in Gethsemane, with the Father and a couple of sleepy Apostles for company. In the night, He prayed for His people and also for Himself. His fear at what He know was to come made Him ask His Father to let the cup pass from His lips, but “not my will, but yours”.

Today we walk the Stations of the Cross, the fourteen stages of Christ’s death on the Cross, from His conviction by Pontius Pilate to His burial. These fourteen stations are illustrated below. The photos are details from the station in the St. Joseph cathedral in Groningen (originally taken for a different Good Friday project for which I lacked the time, and I hope you’ll excuse the bad lighting conditions in some) and the texts are snippets from prayer sand meditations written for the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum in Rome, written by Camillo Cardinal Ruini, which you can read in full here.

FIRST STATION – Jesus is condemned to death

“Jesus died for our sins. And on an even deeper level, he died for us, he died because God loves us and he loves us even to giving us his only Son, that we might have life through him (cf. Jn 3:16-17)”.

SECOND STATION – Jesus carries His cross

“[I]n our conscience shines the light of goodness, a light which in many cases is bright and guides us, fortunately, in our decisions. But often the opposite occurs: this light becomes obscured by resentment, by unspeakable cravings, by the perversion of our heart. And then we become cruel, capable of the worst, even of things unbelievable”.

THIRD STATION – Jesus falls for the firs time

“Jesus did not refuse physical suffering and thus he entered into solidarity with the whole human family, especially all the many people whose lives, even today, are filled with this kind of pain. As we watch him fall beneath his cross, let us humbly ask him for the courage to break open, in a solidarity which goes beyond mere words, the narrowness of our hearts”.

FOURTH STATION – Jesus meets His Mother

“Mary becomes the Mother of us all, the Mother of every man and woman for whom Jesus shed his blood. Here motherhood is a living sign of God’s love and mercy for us. Because of this, the bonds of affection and trust uniting the Christian people to Mary are deep and strong. As a result, we have recourse to her spontaneously, especially at the most difficult times of our lives”.

FIFTH STATION – Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross

“[W]hat seemed at first to be merely a stroke of bad luck or a tragedy not infrequently is shown to be a door which opens in our lives, leading to a greater good. But it is not always like this: many times, in this world, tragedies remain simply painful failures. Here again Jesus has something to tell us: after the cross, he rose from the dead, and he rose as the firstborn among many brethren (cf. Rom 8:29; 1Cor 15:20). His cross can not be separated from his resurrection. Only by believing in the resurrection can we meaningfully advance along the way of the cross”.

SIXTH STATION – Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

“In the suffering face of Jesus we […] see another accumulation: that of human suffering. And so Veronica’s gesture of pity becomes a challenge to us, an urgent summons. It becomes a gentle but insistent demand not to turn away but to look with our own eyes at those who suffer, whether close at hand or far away. And not merely to look, but also to help”.

SEVENTH STATION – Jesus falls for the second time

“[L]et us ask God, humbly yet confidently: Father, rich in mercy, help us not to add more weight to the cross of Jesus. In the words of Pope John Paul II, who died five years ago tonight: “the limit imposed upon evil, of which man is both perpetrator and victim, is ultimately Divine Mercy” (Memory and Identity, p. 60)”.

EIGHTH STATION – Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

“It is Jesus who takes pity on the women of Jerusalem, and on all of us. Even as he carries the cross, Jesus remains the man who had compassion on the crowd (cf. Mk 8:2), who broke into tears before the tomb of Lazarus (cf. Jn 11:35), and who proclaimed blessed those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (cf. Mt 5:4)”.

NINTH STATION – Jesus falls for the third time

“In our efforts to identify ourselves completely with Jesus as he walks and falls beneath the cross, it is right for us to have feelings of repentance and sorrow. But stronger still should be the feeling of gratitude welling up in our hearts”.

TENTH STATION – Jesus is stripped of His garments

“As we look upon Jesus naked on the cross, we feel deep within us a compelling need to look upon our own nakedness, to stand spiritually naked before ourselves, but first of all before God and before our brothers and sisters in humanity. We need to be stripped of the pretence of appearing better than we are, and to seek to be sincere and transparent”.

ELEVENTH STATION – Jesus is nailed to the cross

“How many times, when we are tested, we think that we have been forgotten or abandoned by God. Or are even tempted to decide that God does not exist. The Son of God, who drank his bitter chalice to the dregs and then rose from the dead, tells us, instead, with his whole self, by his life and by his death, that we ought to trust in God. We can believe him”.

TWELFTH STATION – Jesus dies on the cross

“In truth, nothing is as dark and mysterious as the death of the Son of God, who with God the Father is the source and fullness of life. Yet at the same time, nothing shines so brightly, for here the glory of God shines forth, the glory of all-powerful and merciful Love”.

THIRTEENTH STATION – Jesus is taken down from the cross and placed in the arms of His Mother

“As we remember that Mary, standing at the foot of the cross, also became the mother of each one of us, we ask her to put into our hearts the feelings that unite her to Jesus. To be authentic Christians, to follow Jesus truly, we need to be bound to him with all that is within us: our minds, our will, our hearts, our daily choices great and small”.

FOURTEENTH STATION – Jesus is placed in the tomb

“Let us halt in prayer before the tomb of Jesus, asking God for the eyes of faith so that we too can become witnesses of his resurrection. Thus may the way of the cross become for us too a wellspring of life”.

Vatican to investigate Medjugorje

Rome Reports, er… reports that Pope Benedict XVI has formed a commission to look into the alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin at Medjugorje. The formation of such a commission had been rumoured recently, but it now seems that concrete steps are being taken.   

Cardinal Ruini

The commission will be presided over by Camillo Cardinal Ruini, vicar general emeritus of the Diocese of Rome, and will be part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The goal of the commission is simply to find out what exactly happened at Medjugorje, if it still continues to happen and to remove the doubts that still linger.  

At the moment, the Church has not issued any official statements about Medjugorje. That means that people are free to go there on pilgrimage, but that the Church will not support it as a pilgrimage site. It is, after all, unclear if it really us one. Local bishop Ratko Peric has spoken regularly against the supernatural origin of the Medjugorje phenomenon.