Saint webmaster?

On this All Saints day, what better time to showcase a possible future saint of our time. 15-year-old Carlo Acutis, who died of leukemia in 2006, is today being considered by his native Archdiocese of Milan for a possible future beatification and, indeed, canonisation.

The first step towards that is determining if he lived a life of heroic virtue, which may lead to him being granted the title Venerable.

The website that young Carlo made is still up today and maps Eucharistic miracles across the world and throughout history.

A basilica for the capital

As accidentally announced on twitter yesterday, the news may now be revealed properly. Amsterdam’s “cathedral on the IJ” – the strikingly domed St. Nicholas church that greets visitors arriving in the nation’s capital as they exit the central train station – has been elevated to the status of basilica minor. The actual elevation is set for Vespers on the eve of 9 December, the day on which the festivities marking the 125th anniversary of the new basilica’s dedication will be rounded off. Archbishop André Dupuy, the apostolic nuncio will then read the official document in which the decision is outlined.

Haarlem-Amsterdam’s Bishop, Msgr. Jos Punt, together with the parish council of Amsterdam’s St. Nicholas parish, made the official request to the Congregation for Divine Worship in July. This congregation motivates her decision to grant the request with two arguments: the veneration of Saint Nicholas of Myra, patron saint of the city of Amsterdam; and the devotion to the Miracle of Amsterdam, which is still remembered annually by a night-time silent procession through the city’s heart.

Bishop Jan van Burgsteden, the retired auxiliary bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam who is responsible for the pastoral care in the parish, said: “This is the witness of a inspirational and missionary parish community. We hope that the Church and community may grow and flourish further in the years to come.” He referred to the many volunteers who kept the St. Nicholas alive and  thriving, even when secularisation forced the closure of many churches.

The elevation of the St. Nicholas raises the number of Dutch basilicas to 24, of which three are in the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam. The Archdiocese of Utrecht has eight, the Diocese of Breda three, Roermond six, Rotterdam one, and ‘s Hertogenbosch three. In the Caribbean Netherlands, the Diocese of Willemstad has one basilica.

The title of minor basilica is an honourific, a recognition of the import of a church building and of its value for the Catholic value using it. It also means that the church in question plays an exemplary role when it comes to pastoral care and liturgy.

A look at Bishop-elect Hendriks’ coat of arms

The website of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam today published the coat of arms of its new auxiliary bishop, Msgr. Jan Hendriks, who will be consecrated on 10 December.

As is standard for a bishop’s coat of arms, it features the green gallero with six tassels on each side, the cross and the motto chosen by the new bishop. Specific details relevant to Msgr. Hendriks are contained in the shield. In the centre, in red on gold, we find the eagle, symbol of St. John the Evangelist, the patron saint of the new bishop, and the author of the motto underneath the shield. Top left we find a host surrounded by flames; a reference to Msgr. Hendriks’ devotion to the Eucharist, as well as to the Miracle of Amsterdam. It’s also a connection with Msgr. Hendriks’ predecessor, Bishop van Burgsteden, who belongs to the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament.

In the lower right corner, in silver on azure, is the lily representing the Blessed Virgin. It is taken from the coat of arms of Bishop Jos Punt, the ordinary of Haarlem-Amsterdam, and indicates both the new bishop’s devotion to the Mother of God, but also his bond with Bishop Punt.

The other two fields, with the red crosses on white, containing three St. Andrew’s crosses, come from the coat of arms of the diocese.

Details of the consecration have also been released. Due to restoration works in the cathedral basilica of St. Bavo, it will take place in the parish church of Sts. Vitus and Willibrord in Hilversum, starting at 11. After the consecration Mass there will be a reception where guests may congratulate new auxiliary bishop and  extend their best wishes to Bishop van Burgsteden, who is retiring as auxiliary bishop. That reception will last until 15:30. The principal consecrator will be Bishop Punt, while Bishop van Burgsteden and Rotterdam’s Bishop Hans van den Hende will be co-consecrators.

The value of oddball Amsterdam

The flag of Amsterdam

The Dutch capital, Amsterdam, is a bit of an oddball among European capitals. Unlike most of the others, it is not the see of a bishop. Its only compatriot in this is Bern in Switzerland, which is in the Diocese of Basel and whose bishop resides at Solothurn.

In the case of Amsterdam, the diocese is Haarlem-Amsterdam and the bishop lives in Haarlem. The reason for this is firmly entrenched in the Protestant history of these shores: when the Catholic hierarchy was re-established in 1853, the city fathers of Amsterdam vetoed a bishop coming to live among them. That is why Bishop Franciscus van Vree, the first bishop of the new diocese of Haarlem, which at that time extended from the island of Texel all the way to the islands of South Holland, settled for Haarlem, no doubt with the firm idea of one day moving to Amsterdam (perhaps as archbishop, had the pedigree of Utrecht not trumped the cards of Haarlem). That never happened.

In recent years, under the episcopate of Bishop Jos Punt, Amsterdam is again slowly but surely presented as an important Catholic centre in the Netherlands (it is helped in this by the fact that it was the location of a medieval Eucharistic miracle which is still the centre of an annual night-time procession). In 2008, the diocese changed its name from Haarlem to Haarlem-Amsterdam and it is rumoured that Bishop Punt would not mind elevating the St. Nicholas church in Amsterdam as co-cathedral of his diocese.

Bishop van Burgsteden

This past weekend, the value of Amsterdam was underlined once again, when St. Nicholas priest Father Joop Stam celebrated his last Mass before enjoying his retirement. Both Bishop Punt and Auxiliary Bishop Jan van Burgsteden attended this Mass, and it is the latter who is now made administrator of the parish that Fr. Stam is leaving. He will be the de facto head of the parish until another priest is named to succeed Fr. Stam. It is therefore not a permanent position, but the fact that a bishop was appointed to the function speaks volumes.

Amsterdam is the centre of much that goes on in the Netherlands, and the local Church not only wants to reflect that, but have her presence similarly visible there.