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Following the recent retirement of the vicar general of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, Father Leo van Ulden, the diocese announces that he will be succeeded by two new vicars general. Perhaps this is a reflection of the workload that has lain upon the shoulders of Fr. van Ulden in the past 11 years.
The basic hierarchy of the diocese used to consist of four men: the bishop, Msgr. Gerard de Korte; the vicar general, Fr. van Ulden; and two regional vicars, Fathers Johan te Velde and Peter Wellen. And it is these latter two men who have been appointed to the position of vicars general.
In a statement announcing the appointments, the diocese explains: “In this way no priest needs to be removed from the parishes. At the same time this construction allows for cuts in the diocesan budget.”
Fr. te Velde will be responsible for liturgical tasks (not surprising in the least), while Fr. Wellen will be focussing on ecumenical contacts.
A vicar general is the principal deputy of a bishop in the running of the diocese, and while it is rare for any of the relatively small Dutch dioceses to have two vicars general, it is allowed. A bishop is free in appointing and removing them, although their term as such expires when the bishop dies or is appointed to another diocese.
In the latest parish bulletin, Father Rolf Wagenaar announces that Mass according to the missal of Blessed Pope John XXIII, what is now commonly known as the Extraordinary Form or the Tridentine Mass, will be celebrated once a month in the cathedral of St. Joseph, starting on 10 April.
Father Wagenaar writes:
“The diocese received the request [for Mass in the Extraordinary Form] and the bishop has asked me if I would be willing to offer this Mass at certain specific times, or permit that another priest would offer Mass according to the aforementioned missal in the cathedral of St. Joseph.
“After some deliberations and consultations I agreed to give a priest the opportunity to do so.
“For the time being this will happen once a month. The first time will be the second Sunday of April, 10 April, at 18:00 hours at the cathedral of St. Joseph. We will see how much interest there is.”
Other sources inform us that the celebrating priest will be Father Dr. Gero P. Weishaupt, German-born priest of the Diocese of Roermond, Church lawyer and one-time private secretary to now-Cardinal Mauro Piacenza when the latter was President of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church.
This is the current high point of a development that goes back more than three years. The discussions have been acknowledged by the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden last year, when the vicar-general, Msgr. Leo van Ulden, called for people who desired a Mass in the Extraordinary Form to contact him. He then also said that Bishop Gerard de Korte had pointed out two churches that he deemed suitable for this Mass, among them the cathedral.
One verb would adequately summarise my experience of the annual St. Boniface Day, and that verb is ‘walking’. Leaving the small village in Nes, after a pilgrim’s blessing from Fr van Ulden, we set off towards the coast of the Wadden sea near Wierum. We walked along the dyke, amid several flocks of sheep and numerous oystercatchers, swallows and housemartins. After a few kilometers we left the dyke and turned southward towards the village of Ternaard, from where we headed on towards Hantum, Hiaure and ultimately Dokkum. It was close to noon when we reached our destination; the St. Boniface park. In the four hours before that we covered some 18 kilometers, which included two rest stops (with free stories from Deacon Peter Vermaat).
In the park, the workshops had already begun, and I soon found myself with a meal ticket and the company of several friends. I also took the opportunity to walk around a bit and catch up with several people. In a thinly populated diocese like ours, it’s nice to be able to do that. Among those people was the bishop, who celebrated his birthday that day as well.
I had the impression that the day was well-attended, although perhaps not as well as last year. Still, the atmosphere was good, and even the usual chaos of a procession getting readied for take-off was not too bad at all. Naturally, I was among four guys drafted to carry the bier with some of St. Boniface’s relics in the procession. An honour to be sure, although ignoring the photographers is a bit of a chore. One of them had the gall to tell me not to smile because it didn’t look solemn enough for his picture… This was even before the procession had begun and I was chatting with some friends near me.
The procession, which started at the parish church and ended at the park, was followed by Mass, offered by Bishop de Korte in concelebration with a handful of priests. It was a valid Mass, but I will not say too much about it, since it was also one of the most horizontal Masses I’ve ever witnessed. The sentiment in my previous post refers to this Mass as well. It was disconcerting.
All the same, I am glad I took the trouble and had the means to do the walk and meet up with friends in Dokkum. The weather, the landscape and the company all combined into a great day, and I consider the procession as a very good conclusion.
In a radio interview, Father Leo van Ulden OFM, vicar general of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, spoke about the censorship of certain songs used in the liturgy. Father Cor Mennen of the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch and Msgr. Herman Woorts, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Utrecht have recommended that at least 29 songs be no longer used in the liturgy. Father van Ulden says that the assumption of the Liturgy Workgroup Heeswijk, who publishes the liturgy sheets for many parishes in the Netherlands, that the censorship is a decision, is incorrect. It is premature to says so, he claims. The final decision on what can and cannot be sung in the liturgy rests with the bishops’ conference, and Father van Ulden says that, were he the publisher of the songs, he would inform the bishops: “we await your judgement and keep on singing.”
I’ve seen Father van Ulden’s comments presented as an attack against the censorship and a sign of disagreement among the bishops, but I don’t think that’s true. Rather, he points out the difference between advice and decision. When it comes to hymn books which are used throughout the Church province, it would be logical that any decision about this is made on a provincial level. On that level, it is the bishops’ conference who have that power.
Of course, in their own dioceses, bishops can take a lot of decisions. Bishop Frans Wiertz of Roermond, for example, has long since decided to use a different hymn book than the one used in the rest of the country. He doesn’t ask the publisher to change their hymn book, but simply chooses to use something else.
The Liturgy Workgroup Heeswijk and publisher Gooi en Sticht are based in the diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch and the Archdiocese of Utrecht respectively. Upon the request of the bishop’s conference, the bishops of the dioceses where workgroup and publisher reside have appointed censors: Father Mennen and Bishop Woorts. Since the request stems from the conference, it is they, and not the censors, who will make a decision.
Father van Ulden’s words are not strange or out of line. They are a clarification, or even simply an affirmation, of the process. The media coverage is a bit clumsy, though.
Het Bisdomblad, the monthly magazine published on behalf of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, features an interesting one-page article by Father Leo van Ulden ofm, the vicar general, about the Extraordinary Form of the Latin rite. Most of the piece deals with some general considerations about the form and the rituals, as well as the sense of sacrality. There are a few dubious points, mainly about the pope’s intention in allowing the Extraordinary Form to be used (it was never disallowed to begin with, really), but the interesting bit is at the end.
Fr. van Ulden writes that the pope has asked the dioceses to offer space for people who want to celebrate Mass in this ‘somewhat unusual form’. Quoting (and translating):
“In our diocese there are two churches open to this: the cathedral of Saint Joseph in Groningen and the parish church of Saint Martin in Sneek. Both still have the liturgical layout and atmosphere suited for a Tridentine Mass. [...] Should a reasonable number of people be interested in this form of the liturgy, they can contact the author.”
I know that asking for ‘a reasonable’ amount of interest is in fact discouraged by Rome (numbers should play no part in offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form – a priest can in fact decide to do this without any request from his parish), but I believe that the above quote should be welcomed warmly. As far as I know it is one of the first positive steps towards implementing the motu proprio ‘Summorum Pontificum’ in our diocese, and as such comes with some practical considerations: finding a priest who can say Mass in this form, for example.
I’d be very interested to see positive developments in this.
As of today, Mgr. Gerard de Korte is the new bishop of the diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden. Seen on the back in the photo above, he receives the staff of the diocese’s first bishop, Mgr. Nierman, from the hands of his predecessor, Mgr Wim Eijk, the Archbishop of Utrecht.
Its been a busy evening and day, run expertly by Father Jos Deuling in his role as MC. Before he became a priest he was a chef, and I can imagine him running a busy kitchen the way he ran the entire show today. They do say that telling priests what to do is more difficult then herding cats, so Fr. Jos did an excellent job. And judging by the massive grin he sported afterwards, he agreed.
As for my duties, they consisted of showing up last night at six, to be told what the role of host exactly entailed. It turned out to be following an intricate chart of who would be seated where (varying from family and friends of the new bishop, to civilian authorities (including Secretary of Justice Hirsch-Ballin), delegates from the parishes and representatives of the Archdiocese. All with their own bit of cathedral to sit in. After we had dedicated that to memory, some of us, including Guido and me, would go over the order in which the offerings would be brought forward (those included gifts from the various parts of the diocese).
The rest of the evening we spent in front-row pews hugely enjoying various priests standing in for he Archbishop, Bishop de Korte or Mgr. Bacque, the nuncio, with varying levels of conviction or success. In actuality, they were rehearsing the program of the next day.
That day was today, and started for me at eight in the cathedral, for a full runthrough, with Father Victor playing Archbishop Eijk (including mannerisms). The film crew of the KRO was busy testing lights and sound in the mean time, creating interesting disco effects in the cathedral.
At ten the doors opened, and from then until a few minutes past eleven, all of us hosts were busy showing people their seats. I estimate a total of some 600 people with 12 hosts accompanying them. The entire Mass can be seen here.
There was a reception afterwards, with many speakers. I missed most of them, due to helping Fr. Wagenaar with his English homily. I was back in time for a hugely entertaining drink and conversation with friends, two priests and a hermit. I also got the opportunity to shake hands with both Bishop de Korte and Archbishop Eijk.
It was busy, but enormously enjoyable. I realise I’m very lucky to not just be able to do and experience these things, but to do so with the friends I have.
The new bishop on the cathedra of his diocese, flanked by his vicars and vicar-general, Fathers Wellen, Van Ulden and Te Velde, and Archbishop Eijk.
Both photos taken by Joost Goes, courtesy of RKK.nl