The Lady of All Nations – A diocese celebrates, but serious questions remain

On 12 June a day of prayer in honour of the Lady of All Nations will take place in Amsterdam, under the auspices and with the participation of Bishop Jos Punt of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam. Lady of All Nations refers to the Blessed Virgin and specifically the alleged apparitions of her in Amsterdam between 1945 and 1959. These apparitions, like others across the world, caused much debate and also much enthusiasm. The debate still remains, and is fueled by a distinct lack of clarity.

At the root of this lie two things that the Blessed Virgin is alleged to have communicated during these apparitions; the first is a prayer that refers to her as she “who once was Mary”, and the second the wish that a fifth Marian dogma be declared, which would make her coredemptrix, saviour next to Jesus Christ. The image created from the apparitions, pictured to the left, also shows Mary in front of the Cross, taking the place of Christ.

Both these elements, the prayer and the dogma, constitute a rupture with all we know of the Blessed Virgin and her role in salvation history, and all that she has communicated in apparitions and miracles. And that, in short, is why the veneration of the Lady of All Nations is so problematic.

During his pontificate, Venerable Pope Pius XII acted against the title of ‘coredemptrix’, and had it removed from documents. The Second Vatican Council expressed exceeding caution in using the term, and even used the word mediatrix sparingly. A 1997 conference on the subject in Czestochowa also decided against the proposed dogma, citing the rupture with the Mariological beacons set forth by the Council (and, I might add, the whole of salvation history).

Much debate in the world Church, then. But things also developed on the diocesan level. According to canon law, a diocesan bishop has full authority to judge the validity of such supernatural phenomena. It is part of what he received at his consecration to the episcopate. Over the decades, at least two bishops of the Diocese of Haarlem, Msgr. Huibers and Zwartkruis, had investigations into the alleged apparitions conducted which led to the veneration of the Lady of All Nations being forbidden within the diocese. In 1996, only weeks before his death, Bishop Henny Bomers declared that he no longer had any qualms about the cultus that had developed and in 2002 Bishop Jos Punt declared the phenomena that occurred between 1945 and 1959 to be authentic. That meant that, with to the authority vested in a diocesan bishop, the veneration was allowed worldwide.

Here we have an interesting contrast; whereas the higher Church authorities, manifesting their duty and ability of guiding the faith of the Church, expressed caution in the interpretation and consequences of the alleged apparitions and messages, the local curia on the diocesan level came to the conclusion that such caution is not warranted. Some blame that latter development on Bishop Punt with his strong personal devotion to the Lady of All Nations, but the case has kept basically all bishops in Haarlem of the last 60 years busy. Twice a serious investigation was called, and at least two bishops came to the personal conclusion that everything was authentic (Bishop Huibers probably came to the same conclusion in 1955, but abided to the ruling of a committee he had established to investigate the apparitions).

That is the situation as it is now, but what tends to be overlooked are the judgements of Pope Pius XII, the Second Vatican Council and modern prelates such as Cardinal Amato, who all speak against the full authenticity. And I tend to agree with their serious reservations. I am not denying Bishop Punt’s authority, but neither am I (or any Catholic) obliged to believe in whatever apparition, be it Amsterdam, Lourdes, Medjugorje or Fatima.  And if we believe, we must do so with heart and mind. The heart may be there, but the mind has its questions which deserve answers.

And that is why I doubt the wisdom is such large-scale events like the day of prayer on 12 June. The Lady of All Nations, and the contents of the Virgin’s alleged messages, of her as coredemptrix and as something else than the human Mary, are presented as accepted elements of the faith, when they are not.

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Pope’s homily about bishops

Pope Benedict XVI has spoken about the role and duties of bishops in a homily at the consecration five new bishops, on Saturday. Read the full text over at Zenit and in a Dutch translation here. The Holy Father discusses the unity of Christians and the Apostolic Succession, taken a line from the Acts of the Apostles (2:42) as inspiration. He also gives an explanation of what faith is.

Three of the five new bishops will work in the Roman Curia: Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci is the secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and titular archbishop of Menevia in Umbria; Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai is the secretary of Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples and titular archbishop of Sila in northern Africa; and Archbishop Celso Morga Iruzubieta is secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy and titular archbishop of Alba Maritima in Croatia.

The two remaining bishops are to work in the diplomatic corps of the Holy See, although they have not been assigned to the nunciature of a particular country (I hear the Dutch nunciature will become available soon…). Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi is titular archbishop of Sutrium in Lazio, Italy; and Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra is titular archbishop of Thelepte in Tunisia.

Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai is the first Chinese priest appointed to a top Vatican post. His appointment is a clear signal to and influence on China and that country's difficult relations with the Holy See.

Photo credit: [1] REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini, [2] ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images

Of titles, deaconries and suburbican sees

Still almost a month before the  consistory of 20 November, an interesting question remains, and it probably won’t be answered until the very day of the consistory. What title churches will the new cardinals be receiving?

The College of Cardinals has its origin in the ecclesiastical structure of ancient Rome. Historically, cardinals were the deacons and priests of parishes in the old city, or bishops of small nearby dioceses, the so-called suburbican sees. Nowadays, cardinals come from all over the world, and if they don’t have some function within the curia, they usually do not live in Rome. But still new cardinals go and take possession of their title churches in or near Rome, a tradition that, not unlike the titular sees of bishops who are not ordinaries, firmly ties past and present together.

There are 33 title churches available for the 24 new cardinals who can either become cardinal priests or cardinal deacons. Cardinal priests are usually diocesan (arch)bishops somewhere, while cardinal deacons have a role in the curia. For example, Archbishops Mazombwe (Lusaka), Wuerl (Washington), Monsengwo Pasinya (Kinshasa) and Nycz (Warsaw) will be cardinal priests, and Archbishops Amato, Sarah, Burke and Koch will be cardinal deacons.

The Basilica of San Clemente is the title church of Cardinal Simonis, who is a cardinal priest

Father Z has more information.

Red Dawn

Over the past days the rumours that Pope Benedict XVI would be calling a consistory for the Feast of Christ the King (20 November) were on a significant increase, and today they were proved true. At the end of his general audience of today, which ended only a few minutes ago, the Holy Father read the list of 24 cardinals-designate, who will receive the red hat next month. Some designates are the heads of important archdioceses, others have valuable roles in the Roman curia, and there are also those who receive the title as a recognition of their work. On the whole, these men reflect Pope Benedict’s own values and wishes for the future of the Church. It is not unlikely that among these cardinals-designate is his successor.

Here is the list of the 24, in alphabetical order:

  • Archbishop Angelo Amato, S.D.B. (Italian, 72), prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints
  • Archbishop Fortunato Baldelli (Italian, 75), head of the Apostolic Penitentiary
  • Monsignor Domenico Bartolucci (Italian, 93), Emeritus director of the Sistine Chapel choir
  • Monsignor Walter Brandmuller (German, 81), Emeritus president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences
  • Archbishop Raymond Burke (American, 62), head of the Apostolic Signatura
  • Archbishop Raul Eduardo Vela Chiriboga (Ecuadorean, 76), Emeritus Archbishop of Quito
  • Archbishop Raymundo Damasceno Assis (Brazilian, 73), Archbishop of Aparecida
  • Archbishop Velasio De Paolis (Italian, 75), president of the Prefecture of the Economic Affairs of the Holy See
  • Archbishop José Manuel Estepa Llaurens (Spanish, 84), Emeritus military ordinary of Spain
  • Archbishop Kurt Koch (Swiss, 60), president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  • Archbishop Medardo Joseph Mazombwe (Zambian, 79), Emeritus Archbishop of Lusaka
  • Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya (Congolese, 71), Archbishop of Kinshasa
  • Archbishop Francesco Monterisi (Italian, 76), archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls
  • Patriarch Antonios Naguib (Egypt, 75), patriarch of Alexandria
  • Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz (Polish, 60), Archbishop of Warsaw
  • Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don (Sri Lankan, 62), Archbishop of Colombo
  • Archbishop Reinhard Marx (German, 57), Archbishop of Munich and Freising
  • Archbishop Mauro Piacenza (Italian, 66), prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy
  • Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi (Italian, 68), president of the Pontifical Council for Culture
  • Archbishop Paolo Romeo (Italian, 72), Archbishop of Palermo
  • Archbishop Robert Sarah (Guinean, 65), president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”
  • Archbishop Paolo Sardi (Italian, 76), pro-patron of the Knights of Malta
  • Archbishop Elio Sgreccia (Italian, 82), Emeritus president of the Pontifical Academy for Life
  • Archbishop Donald Wuerl (American, 69), Archbishop of Washington
Cardinal-designate Raymond L. Burke

There are some very recent appointments to the curia among these 24, such as Archbishops Koch, Piacenza and Sarah, who have all taken over from their predecessors in the last few months or even weeks. Others are not surprising at all. Archbishops Burke, Ranjith, Monsengwo Pasinya and Amato were all generally expected to become cardinals.

The Italian contingent is relatively large, which is somewhat unusual considering the trend of the past years of non-Italians  being appointed heads of councils and congregations. The non-western designates are again few in number. Personally, I had expected that to be different. Especially Asia has a number of major archdioceses which could be headed by a cardinal. Maybe next time.

Archbishop Wim Eijk, not a cardinal yet

As for the Low Countries, neither Archbishop Eijk of Utrecht nor Léonard of Brussels is on the list. Undoubtedly various people (bitter bloggers among them) will point out that this is due to them being out of favour with Rome. I expect the explanation is far simpler: both archdioceses still have active electors – Cardinals Simonis and Danneels respectively – and Pope Benedict XVI generally tends not to create new cardinals in a diocese or Church province that already has a cardinal able to participate in a conclave. Cardinal Simonis won’t turn 80 until November of next year, and Danneels won’t until June of 2013.

All the cardinals designate are now theoretically papabile, meaning they could be chosen to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, but not all of them can participate in a conclave. Bartolucci, Brandmuller, Estepa Llaurens and Sgreccia  are all over 80, and so they can’t vote. They could conceivably still be elected by their brother cardinals, but the chances of that are slim indeed.

Curial changes continue

Ever so gently, the natural process changes the composition of the Curia in Rome. Yesterday, two cardinals retired for reasons of age. Both men, Cláudio Cardinal Hummes of the Congregation for Clergy, and Paul Josef Cardinal Cordes of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, are one year past the required retirement age of 75.

Archbishop Piacenza

Their successors were announced on the very same day. Cardinal Hummes, in a relatively unusual move, is succeeded by the secretary of the congregation he headed for four years. Italian Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, 66, is now the prefect. He is generally seen is an intelligent, levelheaded and honest man. As prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy he will be responsible for the affairs concerning diocesan priests, as well as the legal aspects of running parishes. In February he wrote a letter to Archbishop Eijk of Utrecht, clarifying the latter’s right to regulate employment in his cathedral parish. Archbishop Piacenza again made an appearance in my blog with a letter to all the priests.

Archbishop Sarah

The Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, which is responsible for all charitable actions and initiatives that relate to the care of the needy, will now be headed by Archbishop Robert Sarah (65). Until now, the Guinean-born archbishop was secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

Both archbishops, as heads of a congregation and a pontifical council, are very likely candidates for the red cardinal’s hat in an upcoming consistory. They’ll then join their predecessors who, not being 80 yet, can still vote in a conclave.

Stats for June 2010

A few days late, but here they are nonetheless (mostly for myself, I’ll admit)

June was a slightly better month than May, although the news and the topics I wrote about diminished a bit in the second half of the month. 3,652 page views were registered, bringing the total since the beginning of January to 22,582. As I thought, it did indeed cross the 20,000 somewhere around mid-June.

The ten most popular posts were the following:

1: A gentle pope, but rock solid in the execution (167)
2: St. Boniface Day 2010 (130)
3: Ouellet to the Congregation for Bishops (81)
4: The curious case of Bishop Walter Mixa (68)
5: Cardinal Newman to be beatified by the pope, officially announced (62)
6: Introductie op de Geest van de Liturgie – onofficiële vertaling (60)
7: Msgr. De Kesel to Bruges? Wow (54)
8: Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form in Amsterdam (52)
9: A difficult choice in the voting booth (48)
10: Father Cor Mennen had better look out… perhaps (44)

The high ranking of my post about the St. Boniface Day is mainly due to a link from my favourite Dutch blogger (for a giving value of ‘favourite’), who saw fit to use it as one more tool to attack my bishop, albeit not very convincingly (seriously, I’m suddenly an authority on  how many people attend an event?). Anyway, spike in stats – always nice.

Speaking of bishops, they and other curia members were the trend in the search terms. Msgr. Gänswein (yes, still), Bishop Mixa and the Venerable Cardinal Newman were all popular.

And lastly, can I say how very happy I am to see my translation of Msgr. Marini’s address on the liturgy still lingering in the top 10? Oh, I just did.

A host of new appointments in the curia

Archbishop Salvatore 'Rino' Fisichella

Pope Benedict appoint a number of people in significant positions in the Roman curia today. Some were expected and predicted correctly in the media, and some are relatively unknown outside the Vatican. Such a significant change, with more appointments rumoured to be coming later this week, is indicative of the future of this pontificate. The people in the curia have worldwide influence in their respective fields of work, so the appointments are not made casually. Pope Benedict XVI does nothing casually, anyway, so the appointments are just as much a seal of approval for the people involved as it is a way sign for the future.

Bishop Kurt Koch

As predicted, Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Archbishop if Québec, will become the new head of the Congregation for the Bishops, succeeding Giovanni Cardinal Re, and Archbishop Rino Fisichella will head the new Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation. His position as head of the Pontifical Academy for Life will be taken by Msgr. Ignacio Carrasco de Paula. The Lateran University has also gotten a new rector, and a new member has been added to the team of pontifical Masters of Ceremonies, headed by Msgr. Guido Marini. Swiss newspapers, in the meantime, are confirming that Bishop Kurt Koch of Basel will go to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, succeeding Walter Cardinal Kasper.

Men to keep an eye on, especially Cardinal Ouellet, Archbishop Fisichella and Bishop Koch.