The first ripple of an expected major shake-up of the Curia arrived today, as Pope Francis appointed a new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament, the dicastery that oversees all expressions of worship in the Church, most importantly the liturgy, as well as the sacraments. He is Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Guinean prelate who was once one of the youngest bishops ever, as St. Pope John Paul II appointed him Archbishop of Conakry at the age of just 34 in 1979.
Cardinal Sarah follows in the footsteps of Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, wh returned to his native Spain as Archbishop of Valencia in August, but perhaps even more so in those of Cardinal Francis Arinze, who led the Congregation from 2002 to 2008. Cardinal Sarah is the second African to lead this office since it was created as the Sacred Congregation of Rites in 1588.
Cardinal Sarah previously led the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, which coordinates the Church’s efforts in aid and charity, and which is expected to be merged with various other dicasteries soon. Pope Benedict XVI made him a cardinal in 2010. Before that, Cardinal Sarah was the Archbishop of Conakry in Guinea from 1979 to 2001 and Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples from 2001 to 2010.
The appointment of Cardinal Sarah is unavoidably notable in the light of the Synod of Bishops and the impression of Pope Francis’ priorities. Cardinal Sarah, like many of his African colleagues, has little time for deviations of the Church’s teaching nor, especially important in his new function, for the western tendency for liturgical experimentation.
For the Congregation for Divine Worship, or CDW for short, this means the start of a new era in leadership. After the departure of Cardinal Cañizares, the Congregation also saw two of its undersecretaries, British Father Anthony Ward and Spanish Msgr. Juan Miguel Ferrer Grenesche, resign, leaving only the secretary, English Archbishop Arthur Roche. Pope Francis did appoint a new undersecretary, Italian Fr. Corrado Maggioni, earlier this month, and with Cardinal Sarah the Congregation seems to be off to a new and refreshed start.
Cardinal Sarah is a hands-on kind of man, and in his previous duties for “Cor Unum” he frequently travelled to those places where the Church’s aid was most needed. In the photo below he is seen visiting the Philippines after Typhoon Yolanda hit last year. The upcoming papal visit, by the way, was in part inspired by the same disaster.
Cardinal Sarah’s name was not among those most frequently mentioned for the CDW top spot. Many were the fears that the position would go to Archbishop Piero Marini, erstwhile MC for St. John Paul II and the first years of Benedict XVI and generally considered rather a liberal. It just goes to show that the eyes and focus of Pope Francis are elsewhere, on the world’s peripheries, and the young and growing Church of Africa may yet harbour more surprises.
“For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Today the Dutch victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash are finally coming home, and victims from other countries have started on their return home as well. Dutch and Australian military planes are flying their remains to the Netherlands, where they will be identified and returned to their families and loved ones.
In live television broadcast the Dutch Catholic Church and other church communities will remember them with an hour-long memorial service in St. George’s church in Amersfoort (incidentally the same church which, only last week, hosted a memorial service for two Dutch girls killed in Panama).
The above text from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans will be at the heart of the service. An expression of the solid hope that the love of God is not bound by anything in heaven or on earth, not even death and political grandstanding.
Of course the world is full of violence and death these days, from Gaza to the Central African Republic, and from Syria to the Ukraine, but sometimes it all hits particularly close to home. 285 innocent people were killed yesterday, and at least 189 of them were Dutch. The reason for their death? They flew over a conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, at an altitude of 10 kilometers. Someone somewhere launched a surface-to-air missile at the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, apparently mistaking it for a military transport plane.
^No photos of wreckage here, but a shot of the Boeing as it left Schiphol Airport yesterday.
In my social media circles, there are at least two people who have lost friends or acquaintances. The outpouring of support and prayer on Facebook and Twitter struck me yesterday and today, even though the sheer scale of the death and destruction is mind numbing.
Pope Francis had a statement released via the Holy See press office today, which reads:
“The Holy Father, Pope Francis has learned with dismay of the tragedy of the Malaysian Airlines aircraft downed in east Ukraine, a region marked by high tensions. He raises prayers for the numerous victims of the incident and for their relatives, and renews his heartfelt appeal to all parties in the conflict to seek peace and solutions through dialogue, in order to avoid further loss of innocent human lives.”
The Dutch bishops also shared their grief and called for prayer:
“We ask all faithful to do everything possible to support the families and friends of victims. And we encourage all the faithful to commend the victims to the mercy of God during the services of this Sunday, and to pray for strength and courage for those left behind.”
Individual bishops als commented. Cardinal Eijk said in an official statement:
“The world heard with shock of the crash of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 near the border between Ukraine and Russia. All of the nearly 300 passengers and crew, including at least 154 Dutch, were killed. Sentiments of sorrow and frustration dominate all aircraft disasters. According to the first reports this civilian airplane was shot down with a missile – which would make this disaster even more unbearable.
We pray for the eternal rest of the people who died in this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayer are also with the family members, friends, acquaintances and colleagues of the victims. For them a time of great uncertainty and mourning has begun. I ask all parishes in the Archdiocese of Utrecht to pray for the victims and their survivors in next Sunday’s services.”
The bishops of Haarlem-Amsterdam and ‘s Hertogenbosch have also called for prayers and support for the victims and their families.
But, in the end, words are words. In these cases whatever we do never feels like it is enough. We can only pray, hope and love.
A photo shared today by Caritas Manila, of refugees sheltered in a church in Tacloban after cyclone Haiyan/Yolanda tore through the Philippines. Tacloban, in the Archdiocese of Palo, was among the hardest hit, with an estimated 10,000 dead.
Active on the ground is Catholic relief agency Caritas. Their activity and the need of the people is reflected by the activity of the Twitter account of the Manila office. While focussing mainly on immediate material aid, they are also calling for any other forms of assistance, mostly financial.
Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila and chairman of Caritas Manila, calls for help: “You hear people say,: ‘Let us help one another. Wat can we do for our brothers and sisters in Tacloban?’ … These are messages of faith that we should listen to.”
Caritas Manila offers several direct means of supporting their work and that of other local relief agencies. Click and see what you can do. The people of the Philippines need every form of help now.
Few will have missed that Lourdes has been hit by major flooding recently. While the sanctuary will open again to receive pilgrims, there is much damage. And while we can’t all head down to southern France to help physically, there are other means to help the premier Marian sanctuary of Europe recover.
The sanctuary’s website provides the following information, which I copy and share here:
Number to contact or phone : 0033 5 62 42 82 22
Thank you for your generosity and messages of support.
To help the Sanctuary of Lourdes to deal with the damage caused by the floods, please send your gifts to:
– By cheque made out to the Association Diocésaine de Tarbes et Lourdes at the following address:
What to say about the horrific bus crash in Switzerland which killed 22 children and 6 adults? Terrible in itself, the news becomes even worse when the names become faces, as happened via social media today.
The message of support from Pope Benedict XVI, the prayer vigil led by Archbishops Léonard and Berloco, the papal nuncio, at Louvain’s St. Peter’s church, the visits of Archbishop Léonard and Bishops Hoogmartens and Lemmens to the schools the children attended, even Bishop Lemmens’ flying down to Switzerland to offer any means of support to families and survivors on behalf of the bishops of Belgium, are but attempts to soften the pain. At best we may hope and pray that they will bear good fruit.
As the year of Our Lord 2011 draws to a close, I happily join the ranks of the countless media channels creating overviews of the years past. And both for this blog, as well as the Catholic Church in the Netherlands and abroad, it has been a tumultuous year, both positive and negative. Taking this blog as the goggles we use to look back, blog, Church and wider world become unavoidably intertwined, but, in a way, that is how it should be.
It’s been quite the year, but one with much to be thankful for. The truth sets us free seems especially apt in this final month, but can be applied to the entire year. May 2012 be equally open, honest, but also full of blessings for the Church, the people and everyone of us.
Thank you, readers, for the continued interest. That’s incentive to keep on doing what I do here.
Observant readers may have noticed that I have not yet written about the horrible murders that hit Norway a week ago today. There is a reason for that, and that is that I try to stick to a fairly narrow field of interest in this blog – Catholic news from the Netherlands and the countries around it. But I also don’t want to pretend that Catholic news is segregated from other news. So attention to the gruesome events that left 77 people dead does seem warranted. After all, I did so as well when other types of disasters – natural ones – hit Haiti, Japan and New Zealand. But there is one obstacle with two sides that kept me from writing: the fact that I know not nearly enough about the political leanings of the murderer, which do play a major part in the story, and that other writers have written about it much better than I can.
But one part of the entire story did present itself to me these past few days, and I think that that is well-suited to be discussed here. It’s the effect that the perpetrator of the attacks, Anders Behring Breivik, had on Catholic media and Catholic blogs over here and abroad.
The first example of Breivik’s twisted thoughts and acts affecting a fellow blogger came to me a few days ago. Father Dwight Longenecker discovered that Breivik read his blog, via a link from a Norwegian website that the killer contributed to. The comments that Breivik made about a post by Fr. Longenecker were
“nothing extreme or weird in itself.
Nevertheless, to think that my blog is out there as part of this new global publishing phenomenon and that anybody at all can read it is always amazing. To think that this madman read at least one post on my blog was disturbing at first. Naturally I wondered if I had written anything to prompt such hatred and violence.
Fr. Longenecker concludes that all we can do is “be silent and pray”. Which is a bit harder when the link between the murderer and you becomes even more personal, which happened to Catholica editor Tom Zwitser and contributor Erik van Goor. The politically conservative and Catholic orthodox writers both received the 1,600-page manifesto that Breivik had e-mailed to what he assumed were ‘kindred spirits’. Zwitser seemingly shrugged it off, although he does conclude that Breivik consciously tried to harm him and other conservative authors and politicians, since the list of recipients consisted of people Breivik did not know personally, but who are now linked to the criminal acts of 22 July. On 27 July, Zwitser wrote on Twitter:
My email address is public. Breivik, who has never read a word from me, thought that I would have any interest in his twisted ideas. Should I now start tweeting and blogging in Norwegian that I have more in common with a proper Muslim than with a dangerous liberal/neocon like him?
For Erik van Goor, the link between Breivik and him was even more of a surprise, and the consequences go farther. As he writes in an announcement, when the attacks happened, Van Goor was on vacation, and only upon coming home did he hear that his name was among those to whom the manifesto was sent. He writes:
“Even though many people, among them numerous friends, have assured me that I don carry any blame (my email address appeared and appears to be circulating freely on the Internet), this whole affair is to me a continuous stone which does not simply go away. The association between my name and the events in Norway may be reasoned away, but emotionally it makes me sick.”
With the ensuing flood of media attention for him, Van Goor decides to step back for now as contributor to Catholica and focus on his duties as husband and father until this storm abates.
And so, on an unprecedented large scale, Catholic bloggers and writers are hit by the backlash of one man’s gruesome actions. I don’t know why Breivik selected Fr. Longenecker, Tom Zwitser, Erik van Goor and all those others to be inspired by or to drag into his ‘project’ (for it does seem to be a well-planned socio-political endeavour), but it does make them into victims, especially since more than a few people now do exactly what Breivik wanted: linking them recipients of his manifesto to the horrible murders committed by him, as if to show that a certain school of thought automatically leads to murder.
I agree with Fr. Longenecker when he says that all we can do is be silent and pray. But while we, as Catholics, as bloggers, as people who made a small corner of the Internet their own, do that, we can take a lesson from all this. Our writings are out there for the world to read. And sometimes they are read – even commented on and written about – by people who do stupid and terrible things. But as long as we take the following words by Pope Benedict XVI to heart, I don’t think we need to worry about that too much.
It follows that there exists a Christian way of being present in the digital world: this takes the form of a communication which is honest and open, responsible and respectful of others. To proclaim the Gospel through the new media means not only to insert expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one’s own digital profile and in the way one communicates choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically. Furthermore, it is also true in the digital world that a message cannot be proclaimed without a consistent witness on the part of the one who proclaims it. In these new circumstances and with these new forms of expression, Christian are once again called to offer a response to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is within them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15). [Message for the 45th World Day of Communications].
But all the same, such events do affect us personally. We may be able to reason much of it away, but they are a small cross we nonetheless bear, at least temporarily.
As Norway mourns and buries her dead, and as Anders Breivik goes to meet his earthly judgement, may all those unwillingly linked to horror and death be given the time and chance to process all of this.
New on the blog roll: Bishop Isao’s Memo, the blog of Msgr. Isao Kikuchi, bishop of Niigata, one of the dioceses hit by last week’s earthquake and tsunami. Bishop Kikuchi appeared on my blog before, with a quote about the Japanese Church’s intention to do their part in the relief of the stricken areas.
He blogs about the aftermath of the disaster in heavily-hit Sendai and the adjacent areas, and about his work with Caritas Japan and other Catholic relief agencies in the area. Interesting and current stuff!
Bishop Kikuchi is 52, and a member of the Society of the Divine Word, a missionary society founded in 1875 by St. Arnold Janssen in Steyl, the Netherlands. He made his vows in 1985 and was ordained a priest for the missionaries in 1986. In 2004 he became the third bishop of Niigata.
On the middle of the day after the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, relief efforts are swinging into actions. Among them the Catholic Caritas Internationalis, which has issued a call for donations for relief in the disaster zone. Go here to see how you can donate.
Most of the aid by Catholic charities will initially be organised from outside the disaster area. The Dioceses of Sendai, Saitama and Niigata, which were affected most, still struggle to restore communications and establish contact with parishes, offices and people. Yasufumi Matsukuma, working for the Japanese bishops’ conference, said, “In Tokyo, telephone lines are so busy that I cannot contact diocesan chancellor offices in Japan. Aftershocks have followed. The tsunamis are terrible and we cannot get any information concerning the church yet” (via UCA News and Catholic News Service).
Bishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi of Niigata and president of Caritas Japan, said that, although the Catholic community is very small, “we will not walk away from our commitment and our solidarity with the victims.”
As for Caritas’s activities at the moment, Fr. Bonnie Mendes of Caritas Asia, has said, “We are in constant contact with the Caritas Japan, which is monitoring the situation, the damage and the victims. We hope that there are not too many casualties. We expect to have a better understanding of the situation of displaced persons and their need to plan an emergency intervention.”