Another year nears its end, the seventh of this blog, which is always a good opportunity to look back, especially at what has appeared here in the blog over the course of 2016. I have grouped things loosely in various categories, so as to give an impression of cohesion.
Pope Francis at work
In Rome, and despite turning 80 this year, Pope Francis kept up the pace, introducing several changes, expected and unexpected. First, in January, he issued a decree which opened the rite of foot washing on Maundy Thursday also for women. I reflected on it here.
On Ash Wednesday, the Holy Father sent out 1,000 missionaries of mercy, among them 13 Dutch priests, as part of the ongoing Holy Year of Mercy.
Pope Francis commented on the question of female deacons, which led to much debate, at least in Catholic social media. I also shared my thoughts.
A smaller debate revolved around an instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved by the Pope, about Christian burial.
The reform of the Curia also continued, first with the creation of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life and the appoinment of Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell as its first prefect; and then with the creation of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, for which the Pope picked Cardinal Peter Turkson as head.
Pope Francis also added to the College of Cardinals, as he called his third consistory, choosing seventeen new cardinals from all over the world.
Towards the end of the year, and following the end of the Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter about the absolution from the sin of abortion, a faculty now extended to all priests.
The Pope abroad
Pope Francis made several visits abroad this year. To Cuba and Mexico, to Greece, to Armenia, to Poland, to Georgia and Azerbaijan, but the last one received the most attention here. For two days, Pope Francis put ecumenism in the spotlight during his visit to Sweden. Announced in January as a one-day visit, a second day was added in June. In October, the Nordic bishops previewed the visit in a pastoral letter, which I published in English.
The abuse crisis
Still here, and unlikely to go completely away in the next years or decades, the abuse crisis continues to haunt the Church. in February there were shocked reactions to comments made by a prelate during a conference on how bishops should handle abuse allegations. I tried to add some context here. In the Netherlands there was indignation when it became clear that a significant number of abuse cases settled out of court included a secrecy clause, preventing victims from speaking negatively about the Church institutions under whose care they suffered abuse. In April, the annual statistics of abuse cases processed and compensation paid out were released.
In April Amoris laetitia was released, the Post-Synodal Exhortation that was the fruit of the two Synod of Bishops assemblies on the family. Cardinal Eijk, the Dutch delegate to the assemblies, offered his initial thoughts about the document, followed by many other bishops.
While the document was broadly lauded, an ambuguous footnote led to much discussion. In November, four cardinals publised a list of dubia they presented to the Pope, but which received no answer. Citing the clear uncertainty about certain parts of Amoris laetitia, visible in the wide range of conclusions drawn, the cardinals respectfully asked for clarification, which they will most likely not be getting, at least not in the standard way.
The local churches
There were many more and varied events in local churches in the Netherlands and beyond. Theirs is a very general category, aiming to showcase some of the more important and interesting developments in 2016.
In January, the Belgian bishops elected then-Archbishop Jozef De Kesel as their new president. At the same time, Cardinal Wim Eijk announced that he would not be available for a second term as president of the Dutch Bishops’ Conference. In June, Bishop Hans van den Hende was chosen to succeed him.
Bishop Antoon Hurkmans retired as Bishop of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and in January he sent his final message to the faithful of his diocese, asking for unity with the new bishop. In April, rumours started floating that the bishops had suggested Bishop Hurkmans as new rector of the Church of the Frisians in Rome.
The Dioceses of Rotterdam and Groningen-Leeuwarden celebrated the 60th anniversary of their establishment.
On Schiermonnikoog, the Cistercian monks, formerly of Sion Abbey, found a location for their new monastery.
The Dutch and Belgian bishops announced a new translation of the Lord’s Prayera new translation of the Lord’s Prayer, to be introduced on the first Sunday of Advent.
A photograph of the cathedral of Groningen-Leeuwarden started appearing across the globe as a stock photo in articles about the Catholic Church. It continues to do so, as I saw it appear, some time last week, in an advert for a concert by a Dutch singer.
Speaking in Lourdes in May, Roermond’s Bishop Frans Wiertz spoke open-heartedly about his deteriorating Eyesight.
In June, Fr. Hermann Scheipers passed away. The 102-year-old priest was the last survivor of Dachau concentration camp’s priest barracks.
In that same month, the nestor of the Dutch bishops marked the 75th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Bishop Huub Ernst is 99 and currently the sixth-oldest bishop in the world.
In Belgium, the new Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels closed down the Fraternity of the Holy Apostles, erected by his predecessor, to the surprise of many.
Bishop Patrick Hoogmartens of Hasselt received a personal message and blessing from Pope Francis on the occasion of the 18th Coronation Feasts held in Hasselt in the summer.
The annual procession in honour of St. Willibrord in Utrecht was criticised this year after the archbishop chose to limit its ecumenical aspect. I shared some thoughts here.
In Norway, Trondheim completed and consecrated a new cathedral. English Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor was sent to represent the Holy Father at the event.
The retired archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, André-Joseph Léonard, was heard from again when a new book featured his thoughts about never having been made a cardinal, unlike his immediate predecessors and, it turned out at about the time of the book’s publication, is successor.
At the end of the year, Berlin was hit by terrorism as a truck plowed through a Christmas market, killing 12 and wounding numerous others. Archbishop Heiner Koch offered a poetic reflection.
The Dutch Church abroad
In foreign media, the Catholic Church in the Netherlands also made a few headlines.
In September, Cardinal Eijk was invited to speak at the annual assembly of the Canadian bishops, sharing his experiences and thoughts concerning the legalisation of assisted suicide. In the wake of that meeting, he also floated the idea that the Pope could write an encyclical on the errors of gender ideology.
in Rome, 2,000 Dutch pilgrims were met by Pope Francis, who spoke to them about being channels of mercy.
The new Dutch translation of the Our Father also sparked fears in some quarters that the bishops were leading everyone into heresy, leading to many faithful revolting against the new text. The truth was somewhat less exciting.
Equally overexcited was the report of empty parishes and starving priests in the Netherlands. I provided some necessary details here.
While my blog is written in English, there have also been three blog posts in Dutch. All three were translations of texts which were especially interesting or important. The first was my translation of the joint declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, an important milestone in ecumenical relations between the Catholic and the Russian Orthodox Churches.
Then there was the headline-making address by Cardinal Robert Sarah at the Sacra Liturgia Conference in London, in which the cardinal invited priests to start celebrating ad orientem again. But the text contained much more than that, and remains well worth reading.
Lastly, I provided translations of all the papal addresses and homilies during the Holy Father’s visit to Sweden. I kept the post at the top of the blog for a while, as a reflection of its importance for Dutch-speaking Christians as well.
A thank you
Twice in 2016 I asked my readers to contribute financially to the blog. In both instances several of you came through, using the PayPal button in the sidebar to donate. My gratitude to you remains.
2016 in appointments
As every year, there is also death. Notewrothy this year were the following:
- 26 March: Bishop Andreas Sol, 100, Bishop emeritus of Amboina.
- 31 March: Georges-Marie-Martin Cardinal Cottier, 93, Cardinal-Priest of Santi Domenico e Sisto, Pro-Theologian emeritus of the Prefecture of the Papal Household.
- 16 May: Giovanni Cardinal Coppa, 90, Cardinal-Deacon of San Lino, Apostolic Nuncio emeritus to the Czech Republic.
- 26 May: Loris Cardinal Capovilla, 100, Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere, Archbishop-Prelate emeritus of Loreto.
- 9 July: Silvano Cardinal Piovanelli, 92, Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria della Grazie a Via Trionfale, Archbishop emeritus of Firenze.
- 2 August: Franciszek Cardinal Macharski, 89, Cardinal-Priest of San Giovanni a Porta Latina, Archbishop emeritus of Kraków.
- 18 August: Bishop Jan Van Cauwelaert, 102, Bishop emeritus of Inongo.
- 13 November: Bishop Aloysius Zichem, 83, Bishop emeritus of Paramaribo.
- 21 November: Bishop Maximilian Ziegelbauer, 93, Auxiliary Bishop emeritus of Augsburg.
- 14 December: Paulo Cardinal Arns, Cardinal-Priest of Sant’Antonio da Padova in Via Tuscolana, Archbishop emeritus of São Paulo, Protopriest of the College of Cardinals.