The Way of Truth – Bishop Egan’s focus

Yesterday saw the consecration of Bishop Philip Egan, the new bishop of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. At the conclusion of the Mass, the eighth bishop of this Portsmouth made some remarks which several trustworthy sources have interpreted as a game plan for the future, not only in his own diocese, but all of England.

I would go even further, and suggest it is a good pointer for what our focus should be in all of Europe, not least in the Netherlands. Hence my translation.

“There is a Way – and it’s the Truth!
It’s the true Way that leads to Life, real life, life to the full, a life that never ends.
There is a Way, and it’s not a strategy, a philosophy or a package-deal.
This Way has a Name, because it’s a Person,
the only Person in human history who really did rise from the dead,
a Person alive here and now: Jesus of Nazareth, God the Son Incarnate.
He alone can save us.
He alone can give us the salvation our spirits crave.
He alone can reveal to us the Truth about God and about life,
about happiness and humanism, about sexuality and family values,
about how to bring to the world order, justice, reconciliation and peace.”

 It may be difficult, it may be unpopular, but this is a truth that we can’t afford to forget if we want to have a future as Catholics, as Christians.

Photo credit: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk

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Cardinal watch: Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor turns 80

The first archbishop of Westminster to have retired, Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor turned 80 yesterday, bringing the number of cardinal electors down to 118 and leaving England and Wales without a cardinal elector able to participate in a future conclave.

Born of Irish parents in Reading, young Cormac was one of four children. After a school career in Reading and Bath, he went to Rome in 1950 to study for the priesthood at the Venerable English College. He earned a degree in theology there, and went on to earn licentiates in philosophy and sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. In 1956, he was ordained.

As a young priest, Father Murphy-O’Connor worked in Portsmouth and the surrounding area until 196, when he became the private secretary of Bishop Derek Worlock of Portsmouth. In 1970 followed an appointment as parish priest in Southampton, followed in late 1971 by a return to the Venerable English College, where Fr. Murphy-O’Connor became the new rector. With this appointment came the title of Monsignor in 1972.

In 1977, the aging Pope Paul VI appointed Msgr. Murphy-O’Connor as bishop of Arundel and Brighton. In his time as chief shepherd of that diocese, he worked much towards unity with the Anglican Church, which lead to him being awarded a Degree in Divinity by then-Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey. He later came under scrutiny regarding the presence of an abusive priest working in his diocese. In early 2000, Bishop Murphy-O’Connor became the tenth archbishop of Westminster, which led, one year later, to him being created a cardinal, with the title church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor was a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for Bishops, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, the Pontifical Council for the Study of Organisational and Economic Problems of the Holy See and the Pontifical Councils for the Laity and for Culture. His most notable recent function was that of secretary of the Vox Clara commission which crafted the new English translation of the Roman Missal. Another high-profile task he was given was to oversee the  recent Apostolic Visitation of the Archdiocese of Armagh and its suffragans in Ireland, in the wake of the abuse crisis breaking in that country.

In 2009, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor retired, the first archbishop of Westminster to live long enough to do so.

Photo credit: The Papal Visit on Facebook.

Good shepherds – standing for the faith

As Thomas Peters put it: “The Holy Spirit has guts”. A look at some of the most recent appointments in the Church (and rumours of future ones) shows as much. Although the decisions are of course made by prelates in the Curia and the Holy Father himself, as Catholics we firmly believe that the Holy Spirit guides and inspires them in their choices. And the choice these days seems to be for a firm stand for the faith and against the shamelessly promiscuous culture of today.

Just looking back over this past month, we have the appointment, albeit controversial in some circles) of Archbishop Gerhard Müller as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Despite certain doubts about his suitability for such an important position, Archbishop Müller is close to the Pope Benedict in outlook and priorities, and will therefore prove a very close collaborator to the Holy Father.

There have also been a number of appointments to dioceses across the world that support the impression outlined above.

In Britain, “thoroughly sound chap” (per Fr. Tim Finigan, who doesn’t say things without good cause) Bishop Philip Egan was appointed to Portsmouth.

Further north, Bishop Philip Tartaglia of Paisley came to the see of Glasgow as the most populous Scottish diocese’s new archbishop, and mere days later he was taken to account for words that criticised a late politician’s homosexual lifestyle.

And today, staunch defender of marriage, Bishop Salvatore Cordileone (pictured at left) was appointed to the Archdiocese of San Francisco, in many ways the American liberal capital. Dubbed a “bombshell” by Rocco Palmo, the appointment of Cordileone can be considered the latest in a string of appointments that are part of what Father  often calls Pope Benedict’s ‘Marshall plan’ for the Church: an effort that must re-acquaint the Church with her own heritage and then live that out. For that, we faithful need bishops who are unafraid to clearly teach and defend what the Church has taught throughout the ages.

Additionally, and as an aside, there have also been bishops who have been taken to account for their mismanagement or failure to stand for the Catholic faith. Most recently, Slovakian Archbishop Róbert Bezák was removed as ordinary of Trnava.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Michael Short

Berlin is vacant: herald of things to come?

With today’s acceptance of the resignation of Georg Cardinal Sterzinsky, a major European capital’s Catholic flock is left without an archbishop. For the time being of course, but the cardinal archbishop, who turned 75 some two weeks ago, leaves an interesting act to follow. When he was appointed in 1989 there was no Archdiocese of Berlin. Sterzinsky, until then a priest of Erfurt-Meiningen (now simply Erfurt), became the bishop of a divided diocese in an East Germany that started to show the cracks that would lead to the German reunification in 1990. Because of the important role of Berlin in the new Germany, and its position in history among other German cities, Bishop Sterzinsky was elevated to Cardinal in 1991, aged only 55. The reorganisation of the dioceses that followed the Wende saw Berlin elevated to an archdiocese and Sterzinsky as its first archbishop.

Berlin, which includes the city of the same name, north and central Brandenburg and eastern Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (including the Baltic island Rügen), is now temporarily led by its auxiliary bishop, Msgr. Matthias Heinrich, who is obliged to convene the cathedral chapter to elect a diocesan administrator, who will run the archdiocese until the pope appoints a new archbishop.

In north and western Europe, where bishops and Catholics are a bit thinner on the ground than in the south, there are a number of bishops approaching the required retirement age of 75, and also some who are already past that age. In Germany, for example, they are Bishop Wilhelm Schraml of Passau (75) and Archbishop Joachim Cardinal Meisner of Köln (77). Archbishop Karl Cardinal Lehmann of Mainz and Bishop Joachim Reinelt of Dresden-Meissen will reach that age later this year. Related to that, the Diocese of Görlitz has been vacant since last year.

Outside Germany, the situation is comparable, although most surrounding countries have far fewer bishops. In Norway, the Territorial Prelature of Trondheim has been vacant since 2009, with the bishop of Oslo running things temporarily. In the Netherlands, Rotterdam is vacant, although no other Dutch bishops will turn 75 for the next seven years. In Belgium, too, the next bishop up for resignation is Bishop Jousten of Liège in November of 2012. The archbishop of Luxembourg, Fernand Franck, on the other hand, will turn 77 in May, and is still in office. In the United Kingdom then, Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow, and Bishops Peter Moran of Aberdeen and Edwin Regan of Wrexham are all 75 or over and still in office. Meanwhile, the bishops of Brentwood, Hallam and Portsmouth will all reach 75 this year, while the Archdiocese of Cardiff remains vacant. Ireland, then, with its spate of bishops’ resignations in the wake of the abuse crisis, is a story in itself.

The current vacancy of Berlin may be a herald of some interesting changes in the Church in and around the Netherlands, but how long those changes will take is anyone’s guess.

All that being said, Cardinal Sterzinsky’s illness leaves him bedridden in the hospital, so his resignation is nothing but understandable, although it is said that he would have liked to be able to welcome Pope Benedict XVI in function when the latter will visit Berlin in September.

Photo credit: Deutscher Depeschendienst