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On the first Sunday of the sede vacante the two Dutch cardinals were already in Rome for several days, and both offered Mass in the eternal city. Cardinal Eijk did so in the Basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle, where he gave his homily in Italian about the day’s Gospel reading.
Cardinal Simonis (pictured) was at the Santa Maria dell’Anima, where the only Dutch Pope’s mortal remains lie. Utrecht-born Adrian VI was Pope from 1522 to 1523. At that church, Cardinal Simonis was accepted into the Guild of the same name, which is tasked with the pastoral care of the German-speaking pilgrims in Rome as well as the Pontifical Institute of the same name and the German Pontifical College. Cardinal Simonis follows in the footsteps of Dutch priest Fr. Antoine Bodar and the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, among others. The Guild’s rector, Fr. Franz Xaver Brandmayr, gave the homily, while Cardinal Simonis concelebrated.
Today, both Dutch cardinals are expected to take part in the first and second General Congregations that will lead up to the conclave. The assembled cardinals may decide upon a start date for the conclave, although there are many who have expressed the desire for more time to get to know each other. As South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier said, although cardinals have een seeing each other more often during the pontificate of Benedict XVI, “[t]hat doesn’t mean I still don’t have to look up on Google” who is who. It is said that the vast majority of cardinals electors are already in Rome, with the remainder mostly arriving this week. Of the 115 electors, 65, including Cardinal Eijk, will be participating in their first conclave. That is a marked difference with the 2005 conclave, when only two cardinals, Baum and Ratzinger, had participated in a conclave before.
Photo credit: Christian van der Heijden
In his recent comments on Pope Benedict’s announced abdication, Bishop Gerard de Korte also reacted to the media reporting on this subject. He wrote:
“These days it is once again striking how carelessly and without knowledge of facts the various commentators speak about Benedict. In my opinion the fact that most newspapers and broadcasters no longer employ journalists that specifically follow Church life becomes clear here. Sometimes provocative oneliners are connected to each other and an unbalanced judgement is made.”
I think this is a correct assessment of the facts, but it points to a deeper reality: apparently most media no longer consider it worthwhile to have professional employees with in-depth knowledge about matters of religion contribute to their publications. Religion is not considered important or relevant enough to have staff writers for. And the result is something we saw virtually every day of the past week. Generally, the commentary and reports are left to people who are experts in other fields or, more frequently, to people who have an opinion they want to share.
Every now and again, someone who does know the details about such matters is a guest in a tv show or contributes a guest writer to a magazine or newspaper. But are these taken seriously? There were two incidents, both involving priests, that illustrate the gap between mainstream media and the reality of Church life. Father Roderick Vonhögen (pictured) was confronted with a barrage of verbal abuse and mockery in a very popular daily talk show, and Father Antoine Bodar expressed his anger at a very biased report on the Pope in a generally respected news show.
The fact that many media outlets will write about the Church and faith, but without employing staff who know their stuff, almost inevitably results in such confrontations. For most people, the media, especially those concerning itself with the news and honest interpretation of facts, is something that is almost automatically trusted as honest, objective and factual. For many, the idea that these media could be subjective, incorrect and biased simply does not occur.
And why should it? There is virtually no criticism, at least none that reaches more thana few people. In my social media activities, I encounter enough of it, but that is because I follow many Catholic people and organisations. But how many people do likewise? On the whole not many, I would wager.
And that is the problem we need to confronting as Catholics, both as faithful and as Church. Our voices, our Catholic Voices, deserve to be heard, and they can. But we must work for it. It requires effort, input, time and, indeed, money. But most of all we need the willingness to contribute, the ability to take the time, to learn and to be factual, positive and honest about what we can bring: nothing less than the Good News of God. And that news, despite what others make of it, and what media choose to focus on, is positive. It represent, in fact, the best news, the best attitude and contribution to life and society, and it is so desperately needed in today’s world.
I received a letter yesterday, an invitation for the celebrations around the 125th anniversary, on 25 May, of the consecration of my parish church, the cathedral of Saints Joseph and Martin in Groningen . All ‘new Catholics’, people baptised or confirmed in the past ten years, received a similar invitation.
The parish website has the full schedule of events:
- Wednesday 23 May, 8pm: Father Antoine Bodar speaks about the question of the relevancy of the Church: Should we just abolish the Church or take pride in our being Catholic. This talk is specifically aimed at students and young Catholics.
- Friday 25 May, 2:30pm: Anniversary of the consecration of the church. For the elderly parishioners there will be a festive afternoon, and also the opening of a photo exhibit of the cathedral’s history. At 6:30pm the cathedral chapter will offer a Sung Vespers, and at 7pm there will be a High Mass during which Bishop Gerard de Korte will consecrate the new people’s altar.
- Saturday 26 May, 2pm: An afternoon for young families, during which Ms. Carolijn van Voorst tot Voorst will speak about religious education in our time. Children will be able to go on a treasure hunt in the church.
- Sunday 27 May, 11am: High Mass offered by Bishop de Korte and apostolic nuncio Archbishop André Dupuy. Mass will be followed by the official presentation of a memorial book of the church’s history. At 5pm there will be an ecumenical Vespers with the bishop and ministers of the various church communities in the city.
- Friday 1 June, 5 pm: Official reception for all the volunteers of the parish.
I’m especially looking forward to Fr. Bodar’s talk, the photo exhibit, the new altar, the High Mass on Sunday and the book.
A church, especially the church where one was baptised and confirmed and received the other sacraments, is not just a building. It is a home of sorts. The home of Christ, certainly, but therefore also a home for us. With the other parishioners and the clergy attached to the church we form a family. The cathedral in Groningen has been a home for me for more than five years now, which is nothing compared to the 125 years that it has been a home for others, but its celebration is also that of me and the parish I am a part of.
To properly start the new year, the visitors of this blog must’ve thought it a good idea to break the record of last October and grace the blog with no less than 6,870 visits. But there were events and topics to match such a score: the upcoming consistory, the continuing abuse crisis, the Year of Faith and the installation of Bishop Liesen all drew much attention. And so did some older posts (including one dating back to January of 2010). Without much further ado, here’s the top 10:
1: Stilte en Woord: Weg van Evangelisatie: 276
2: With apologies for being late, Pope Benedict announces 22 new cardinals: 73
3: Just because everyone does it, does not make it right – Dominican provincial writes to the archbishop: 65
4: Het Probleem Medjugorje: 52
5: Not a representative of the people – Abp. Léonard can’t catch a break: 46
6: “The Belgian Church has been too passive”: 40
7: The added value of bishops resigning: 39
8: Father Bodar returns to ‘s Hertogenbosch & Pope announces Year of Faith, issues Apostolic Letter “Porta Fidei”: 36
9: Cardinals according to John Allen: 34
10: Red Dawn Epiphany?: 33
With the departure of Bishop Liesen to the neighbouring Diocese of Breda, effective tomorrow, the curia of the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch has been looking for someone to take over the duties of the erstwhile auxiliary bishop. Msgr. Liesen was responsible for the education sector, maintaining contacts between diocese, students and the universities in Nijmegen and Tilburg.
Taking over those duties is perhaps the best-known Dutch priest, at least in the media, Father Antoine Bodar. The 67-year-old priest, art historian, author, teacher and talk show host lives in Rome but will be attending meetings with the diocesan staff once a month, as he is also asked to contribute to running the general affairs of the diocese.
In 2003, Fr. Bodar also worked in the diocese, as cathedral administrator of the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Evangelist. He left there at the end of 2003, upon his own request, following tensions within the parish.
Fr. Bodar makes frequent appearances on television and in other media, and is also an often-invited speaker about all manner of Church-related issues. An erudite voice for the teachings of the Church, let’s hope that his new work in ‘s Hertogenbosch will last a bit longer than the last time he was there.
Just for a laugh, recently-ordained Deacon Pascal Huiting and Bishop Gerard de Korte at the start of the procession to the chapel of St. Boniface, at this year’s St. Boniface Day in Dokkum.
Despite the rain, it seems that a good time was had by at least two people. More photos, showing impressions of the procession, the address by Fr. Antoine Bodar, the workshops and the bishop blessing people and things are available here.
Photo credit: Marlies Bosch
Well-known Dutch priest Fr. Antoine Bodar will be lending his name to and performing editorial duties for a glossy magazine that will be published on 16 January 2011. Of course, why the creation of a magazine must take more than six months is anyone’s guess, but that’s just a detail.
The publishers of ‘Antoine’ state that their magazine will offer “entertainment, in-depth interviews, reflections, travel reports, meaningfulness [...] the things that matter.” They’ll even offer recipes and liturgical fashion (something of a contradictio in terminis, surely?).
It may be clear that I am quite possibly not the intended audience of this magazine. (indeed, the target reader is typified as “a woman around 40 years of age, married with two children, living in a medium-sized green town. She likes quality. She cycles, likes nature, would like to read more, but also spends time on family and society.” Not me, in other words.
A glossy… Isn’t the time that any semi-famous person attached his or her name to a publication mostly over now? Fr. Bodar himself is hardly unknown of course, having been on TV several times in the wake of the abuse crisis and he also remains a prolific author. I have no doubt that the magazine will have his characteristic blend of religion and culture and a slightly aloof tone: the man is educated and not afraid to show it in his vocabulary, for example.
‘Antoine’ presents itself as wanting to answer the inherent fascination that people have for religion. Providing a authentic Catholic answer to the search for general spirituality is a necessity, especially in the Netherlands, where the Church is still too quiet. A one-time glossy can be a step in that direction, but I wonder if it’s not too little, too late.
Both Anna Arco and Father John Boyle write that Church attendance seems to have been up this Easter. I can certainly say the same when I look back at the Easter Vigil here in Groningen. The number of baptisms and confirmations was at a steady nine this year (although Pentecost will see some more, especially confirmations), but the cathedral especially was well filled. Some people stayed at home because of the rain, but they made up for it by making Mass on the Sunday morning well-attended.
Of course, this year Easter has been overshadowed by the crisis the Church finds herself in, a fact not ignored in the various homilies I heard. I am happy to see, though, that the media does not always succeed in its attacks on the Church or the pope (at least those that try). The letter composed by Eric van den Berg and Frank Bosman has reached over 1,000 signatures now, local parishioners interviewed outside the cathedral remained supportive of the pope and the Church, a short article in a local newspaper echoed the same, and last night Fr. Antoine Bodar offered a well-spoken defence of the pope on television.
Of course, some media got in a huff about the fact that the pope did not mention or apologise for the abuse during his Urbi et Orbi speech. Apparently, some believe that the pope must make renewed apologies at every public appearance. But at the same time they refuse to acknowledge the apologies he and others already have made. It’s a no-win situation and one best not given too much attention.
It’s a crazy Easter, but one that is not even close to being overwhelmed. The resurrection of Christ, His defeat of death, continues to shine brightly in our lives even if, as my bishop said, the Cross of Good Friday is still firmly present in the Church and in our hearts.
Below are a few more impressions of the Easter Vigil at St. Joseph’s cathedral in Groningen.