On the invisible throne – Van den Hende installed as Rotterdam’s fifth bishop

In the presence of bishops, the nuncio, chapter members and priests from the three dioceses associated with him, Bishop Hans van den Hende was installed as the fifth bishop of Rotterdam, yesterday.

In his homily, he put the term ‘installation’ in perspective.”You are being placed, as the pope also says of himself, in his letter of appointment, that he too has been placed.” Words that not only reflect the innate humility and matter-of-factness of the Groningen-born bishop, but also his strong sense of being in communion with world Church and the pope.

Taking his place, or being placed, on the transparent cathedra in the cathedral of Sts. Lawrence and Elisabeth, Bishop van den Hende continues trends started by his predecessor, Bishop Ad van Luynm standing on the right in the photo above. Among these is the northern heritage he brings with him: both bishops were born in Groningen. Another element is the bishops’ well-developed sense of responsibility for the youth. Bishop van Luyn, even before his appointment to Rotterdam, kept searching for ways to connect to young people and communicate the Gospel to them. In the past year this has become visible in, for example, the great Passion event in Gouda, but also in Taizé on the Maas, held around Christmas last year. Bishop van den Hende has that same sense, if less pronounced. It is more something that naturally expresses itself in his actions and words. He easily communicates with young people, as he does with virtually anyone he meets, and young people notice that here is a man who not only listens, but also understands them. And that is a man that they can listen to and understand. The Catholic youth of Rotterdam are in good hands, it would seem.

Young people in their WYD 2011 clothes congratulate the bishop

After the Mass of installation – which the coming and going ordinaries concelebrated with, among others, Archbishop François Bacqué, the papal nuncio, Archbishop Wim Eijk, Msgr. Dick Verbakel, the vicar general, Msgr Schoenmakers, the general delegate of the Diocese of Breda, and priests from Rotterdam, Breda and Groningen-Leeuwarden – Bishop van den Hende consecrated his new diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This was a seemingly unplanned gesture, but fitting on today’s feast of the same Immaculate Heart. “No one opened their heart so for God as Mary did,” the bishop said. He called those present to wonder “what we can do for God, what His plan for us is.”

Nuncio Archbishop Bacqué, with secretary Msgr. Habib Thomas Halim at his side, shows the papal letter of appointment
Succeeding bishops, Van den Hende and Van Luyn

For more photos, courtesy of Peter van Mulken, go here.

In the presence of royalty, a bishop says goodbye

Bishop van Luyn at the start of his final Mass as ordinary of Rotterdam.

In the presence of HRH Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima, hundreds of faithful, and dozens of priests and bishops, Bishop Adrianus van Luyn bade farewell to the diocese which he headed for more than 17 years. The retiring bishop did so with a Mass at the cathedral of Sts. Lawrence and Elisabeth in Rotterdam. The crown prince and his wife, who reside within the Diocese of Rotterdam, were not the only dignitaries present today. The Queen’s Commissioner for Zuid-Holland, Mr. Jan Franssen, mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, former Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers and Secretary for the Interior Piet Hein Donner were also in attendance – an indication of the connections that Bishop van Luyn made in this most urbanised of Dutch dioceses.

The emeritus bishop’s homily, katholieknederland.nl reports, extensively referred to papal encyclicals and his motto: Collabora Evangelio, which comes from the Second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy: “So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to our Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but share in my hardships for the sake of the gospel” (1:8). He also made mention several times of the witness of Rotterdam’s patron, Saint Lawrence.

I hope to be able to read and translate the homily for this blog, but I have as yet been unable to find it online.

After this official farewell, Bishop van Luyn literally leaves Rotterdam behind him. He will be relocating to a Salesian centre in Bonn, Germany, where he is to continue his work with young people, which played such a prominent part in his time in Rotterdam, especially the homeless. Msgr. van Luyn will stay on as president of COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, until the end of March 2012. Likewise, he will also remain chairman of the Dutch Bishop’s Conference until after the installation of his successor, Msgr. van den Hende, as bishop of Rotterdam, when the bishops will elect a new chairman.

With vicar general, Fr. Dick Verbakel, at his side, Bishop van Luyn shakes hands with HRH Princess Máxima. The crown prince at the far left.

Photo credit: Christian van der Heijden

Fifth bishop of Rotterdam to be announced at noon tomorrow

Via Twitter (the social media network once again proving its value as a news disseminator) I am reading announcements that the Vatican Congregation for Bishops will announce the name of the new bishop of Rotterdam tomorrow at noon. The as yet unknown person will succeed Msgr. Ad van Luyn, S.D.B., currently serving as Apostolic Administrator of Rotterdam, as the fifth bishop of the southwestern Dutch diocese.

Sadly, I’ll be working at the time the announcement is made, but I expect to be able to draft a serviceable blog post about the appointment in the evening. The upcoming appointment will be the first one of a new diocesan ordinary since Bishop Gerard de Korte was appointed to Groningen-Leeuwarden in 2008.

Since the retirement of Bishop van Luyn in January, very few names of possible successors have been thrown about, although there are a fair number of possibilities. Of the current ordinaries, Bishop Hans van den Hende of Breda has been mentioned to move one diocese over; an option which I consider unlikely. Msgr. van den Hende has been in Breda for less than five years (including one year as Coadjutor Bishop), and still has enough work to do there.

Another name is that of the auxiliary bishop of Roermond, Msgr. Everard de Jong. A rumoured close runner for Groninger-Leeuwarden in 2008, he is conceivable ready for his own diocese after more than 12 years as auxiliary. Of the other Dutch auxiliaries, none seem to be likely choices: Msgr. van Burgsteden of Haarlem-Amsterdam is beyond the age of retirement himself. The two auxiliaries each of Utrecht and ‘s Hertogenbosch have only recently been appointed; moving them now will most likely be too destabilising for the diocesan curia they leave behind, let alone themselves (but it will not be entirely unprecedented).

Of course, the new bishop may come from the clergy of the Diocese of Rotterdam itself. The first one to come into my mind, as mentioned here before, is Fr. Jan Hendriks, currently the rector of the Tiltenberg seminary, which belongs to the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, although Fr. Hendriks is a priest of Rotterdam. Another name is that of Fr. Ad van der Helm, the dean of The Hague and professor in canon law at Louvain and Bovendonk. If appointed, he would be the first true twittering bishop of the Netherlands. Rotterdam’s vicar general, Father Dick Verbakel, is an option as well, but a remote one, I think.

But in the end, Rome may still surprise us. Will there be a third Bishop Adrianus* in Rotterdam, or not? Wait and see.

Fr. Ad van der Helm (right), pictured here with Msgr. van Luyn (left) and the Nuncio, Abp. Bacqué, may be the new bishop

*The first was Bishop Adrianus Simonis, later archbishop of Utrecht and cardinal; the second Bishop Adrianus van Luyn.

Photo credit: Peter van Mulken