2014, a year in review

As the year ends, it is once more time to look back at the past year in this blog. It wasn’t quite 2013, but there was still enough to write and think about. I have been a bit less active in writing, for reasons of real life, but the number of page views in 2014 still topped out at close to 100,000. An altogether satisfactory number.

In this review of the year, I will look back on various topics that kept us busy in 2014.

The Catholic Church in the Netherlands

jaimeThere have been many interesting things going in locally, some positive, some negative, but together they reflect the life of the Catholic Church in this country. From Roermond, the case of Bishop Frans Schraven, a martyr for the faith in China, was sent to Rome in light of a future beatification. The financial numbers of 2012 were published and showed a continued downward slope. The Dutch government sent a new – and royal – ambassador (pictured at left) to the Holy See. The Congregation for the Religious sent their second man to meet representatives of religious orders in the Netherlands. Monks of a declining abbey announced that they would be moving to a small island of the northern coast of the country. Personally, I experienced aprocession warfhuizen rain-soaked but satisfying pilgrimage (at right) to another religious site in the north. The Dutch bishops felt the need to stand up against a resurgence of anti-Semitism, and they also announced the upcoming publication of a new Missal translation. My own diocese saw the ordination of two new transitional deacons, while the sole hermit residing in that same diocese also announced the good news of his own upcoming ordination. Protestant clergy discovered the benefits, if not the deeper meaning, of the Roman collar. A community fighting the biography simonisclosing of their local Church appeal to the Pope. Catholic Voices, the successful communications initiative from the UK, launches a Dutch chapter. The retired archbishop of Utrecht, Cardinal Ad Simonis, is the subject of a major biography (cover at left). And in Nijmegen, the Diocese announces changes to the local university chaplaincy.

Cardinal Eijk

eijkThe archbishop of Utrecht remains unenviable as he continues in his work as president of the Bishops’ Conference, member of the Curia in Rome, and all too often a scapegoat. This year, he made headlines when stating that the decisions of the Council of Trent are still current, which caused resentment among ecumenical partners. He was also accused of vetoing a papal visit to the Netherlands, which turned out to be quite untrue, and the bishops ended the rumours by releasing a joint statement.

The seminaries

ariënsinstituut seminariansBy the end of summer, a debate erupted about the future of the seminaries in the Netherlands. Some parties advocated the creation of one or two major seminaries, while others were in favour of continuing with the current six. The majority of seminary directors seemed to favour the first option. Earlier in the year, the Archdiocese of Utrecht, restarted its own seminary (first class, staff and family at left).

Pope Francis

cardinals consistoryThe world remains interested in Pope Francis, and it was no different in this blog. First up, there was his first consistory, in which he created 16 new cardinals, including a fair few unexpected ones. The Holy Father was interviewed by young people from Belgium (at left), an interview that was also televised. Later, the verse vis,luc van looy, francisPope also sent a personal note to the Netherlands, to the participants and organisation of the Catholic Youth Festival. 50,000 altar servers from Germany made a pilgrimage to Rome, where Pope Francis spoke to them. The national Church of the Dutch, the Church of the Frisians, marked the anniversary of its dedication, and Pope Francis sent a note of congratulations. The Pope’s decision to terminate the appointment of the commander of the Swiss Guard led to much rumour, which proved pope francis curia christmas addressunfounded later. Pope Francis clarified this and other questions in a new interview. By the end of the year, Pope Francis announced his second consistory. Finally, his Christmas address to the Curia caused new shockwaves, but deserves a good reading by everyone.

New appointments

101020marx250There has been a fair amount of new appointments in 2014, and especially in Germany. First Fr. Herwig Gössl was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Bamberg. Cardinal Reinhard Marx (at left) was elected as the new president of the German Bishops’ Conference, in addition to his many other duties. In Essen, Bishop Franz Vorrath retired and Fr Wilhelm Zimmermann was appointed as new auxiliary bishop. Archbishop Werner Thissen of Hamburg retired while his successor remains to be appointed. Fr. Stefan Oster was woelki32appointed as the new Bishop of Passau, and Fr. Stefan Burger was the new Archbishop of Freiburg im Breisgau. The Diocese of Erfurt was finally given a new bishop in the person of Bishop Ulrich Neymeyr, after waiting for two years. The biggest appointment of the year was in Cologne, where Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki (at right) returned from Berlin to succeed Cardinal Joachim Meisner.

Mgr%20Bert%20van%20Megen2-loreWhile there were no new bishops in the Netherlands, a Dutch priest was appointed to represent the Holy See in Sudan and Eritrea. Father Bert van Megen (at left) was consecrated by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

In Rome, there were also some notable appointments: Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera left the Congregation or Divine Worship to become Archbishop of his native Valencia. He was later succeeded by Cardinal Robert Sarah. Lastly, Pope Francis appointed a new camerlengo and vice-camerlengo.

The Synod

eijk synodThe big topic in the second half of the year was the Synod of Bishops’ Extraordinary Assembly on the family. In the eyes of the rest of the world, Germany remains a focal point of liberal trends that are at odds with Catholic teaching. That is not always true, but some bishops did strengthen that opinion. Bishop Ackermann of Trier was the first to be criticised for his comments on marriage and sexuality. From Brazil, Austrian-born Bishop Kräutler made comments on celibacy, the ordination of women and the Eucharist, and is said to have the Pope’s blessing to develop these ideas further in johan-bonnyBrazil. In Belgium, Bishop Johan Bonny (at left)was the loudest voice to advocate changes in the teachings on marriage, both before and after the Synod. At the Synod, Belgian Cardinal Danneels spoke in favour of mercy, but did not go as far as Bishop Bonny. In the Netherlands, Bishop Rob Mutsaerts explained that the Synod was not about changing doctrine, and Bishop Gerard de Korte stressed the importance of mercy and finding new words to reach people. How doctrine can change remains an important question.

Limburg

tebartzSpilling over from last year, the final acts of the case of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst (at right) and the Diocese of Limburg played out as it became clear that the Vatican did not want the bishop to stay. He was to retire and Bishop Manfred Grothe, auxiliary bishop of neighbouring Paderborn was appointed as Apostolic Administrator. The last statement of Bishop Tebartz-van Elst spoke of forgiveness and a new beginning. Bishop Grothe presented an overview of the situation since then in his letter for Advent.

Sexual abuse

gijsenThe sexual abuse crisis, while quieter than in the past, still continues, with a few shocking revelations and continuing developments in helping the victims. In 2014, three claims of abuse against the late Bishop Gijsen (at left) were deemed plausible, and the late Bishop Niënhaus, auxiliary of Utrecht, was revealed to have been guilty of sexual abuse. Shortly after the news about Bishop Gijsen, Bishop Frans Wiertz of Roermond offered a Mass of penance and reconciliation and said that there is no excuse for sexual abuse by people of the Church. Later, a court decision forced the bishops to continue accepting new claims of abuse by deceased perpetrators, or cases which happened too long ago to be pursued by a court, until well into 2015.

International events

frans van der lugtThis blog has a clear focus on the local Church in Northwestern Europe, and also on Rome of course, but sometimes events in other parts of the world deserve a place here. In fact, the most-read blog post of the year, with more than 3,900 views, is in this category. It is the sad news of the death of Fr. Frans van der Lugt (at right) in Syria. Another death, this time because of a car crash, was vital wilderinkthat of Dutch-born Bishop Vital Wilderink (at left) in Brazil. Also in South America, the retirement of the Bishop of Paramaribo, also a Dutchman, mad me wonder of his successor would be a native son of Suriname. And then there was the shocking crash of flight MH17 in Ukraine, shot down by rebels, killing 298 people.

From Rome

marriageAnd lastly, Rome also had its say in various developments and decisions which came down to us. The Congregation or Divine Worship urged for restraint in the sign of peace during Mass, Pope Francis married 20 Roman couples and changes in the Curia gave some indications of the future.

Obituaries

In 2014 the following cardinals returned to the Father:

  • José da Cruz Cardinal Policarpo, Cardinal-priest of San Antonio in Campo Marzio, Patriarch emeritus of Lisbon
  • Emmanuel III Cardinal Delly, Cardinal-Patriarch, Patriarch emeritus of Babylon of the Chaldeans
  • Marco Cardinal Cé, Cardinal-Priest of San Marco, Patriarch emeritus of Venice
  • Duraisamy Simon Cardinal Lourdusamy, Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria della Grazie alle Fornaci fuori Porta Cavalleggeri, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and Archbishop emeritus of Bangalore
  • Bernard Cardinal Agré, Cardinal-Priest of San Giovanni Crisostomo a Monte Sacro Alto, Archbishop emeritus of Abidjan
  • Francesco Cardinal Marchisano, Cardinal-Priest of Santa Lucia del Gonfalone, President emeritus of the Labour Office of the Apostolic See
  • Edward Bede Cardinal Clancy, Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Vallicella, Archbishop emeritus of Sydney
  • Edmund Casimir Cardinal Szoka, Cardinal-Priest of Santi Andrea e Gregorio  al Monte Celio, Archbishop emeritus of Detroit, President emeritus of the Governorate of the Vatican City State, President emeritus of the Pontifical Commission or the Vatican City State
  • Fiorenzo Cardinal Angelini, Cardinal-Priest of Santo Spirito  in Sassia, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers
  • Jorge María Cardinal Mejía, Cardinal-Priest of San Girolamo della Carità, Librarian emeritus of the Vatican Apostolic Library and Archivist emeritus of the Vatican Secret Archives

Whereas 2013 saw the death of more than a few bishops in Northwestern Europa, in 2014 we lost only two:

  • Bishop Hubert Luthe, Bishop emeritus of Essen
  • Bishop Wolfgang Kirchgässner, Titular Bishop of Druas, Auxiliary Bishop emeritus of Freiburg im Breisgau
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Moving up – 6 Cardinal Deacons advance

In yesterday’s ordinary consistory, Pope Francis announced the ‘promotion’ of six cardinals. They were all cardinal deacons, created in Pope St. John Paul II’s last consistory on 21 October 2003. As that is ten years and a few months ago, these cardinals were up for a potential promotion from cardinal deacons to cardinal priests. Such a promotion has little effect on their day to day activities and duties, in part because four of the six are already retired, but mainly because it is largely ceremonial. They move up in precedence among their brother cardinals: as deacons they ranked under the cardinal priests, but they now move up according to the date the were created cardinals and the order in which they appeared on the list announcing the consistory.

And one cardinal loses a duty which put him in the world’s spotlight back in March of last year…

tauranmarchisano, herranz, lozano, nicora, cottier

Cardinals Jean-Louis Tauran, Francesco Marchisano, Julián Herranz Casado, Javier Lozano Barragán, Attilio Nicora and Georges Cottier were just six of an impressive 30 cardinals that St. John Paul II created in what would be his final consistory. With Cardinal Renato Martino, who for some reason is not ‘promoted’, they were the most senior cardinal deacons in the College of Cardinals. With their appointments as cardinal priests, they come before such famous prelates as Cardinals Scola, Turkson, Pell and Ouellet, and also all cardinals created by Popes Benedict XVI and Francis (except for the cardinal-bishops and the eastern patriarchs made cardinals by the Pope emeritus).

The new cardinal priests keep their title churches, with the exception of Cardinal Lozano Barragán, who was cardinal deacon of San Michele Arcangelo, but is now cardinal priest of Santa Dorotea, a new cardinal title.

The biggest practical change comes with the promotion of Cardinal Tauran, who was the cardinal protodeacon, the most senior cardinal deacon. And as such it was his duty to announce the election and name of a new Pope, as he did in March of last year. The new protodeacon is the aforementioned Cardinal Renato Martino. But since he is 81, he will have no role in the proceedings of a future conclave (which should, admittedly, be still a long way off). Replacing him is Cardinal William Levada, and should we have a new Pope between now and two years, he will be the one announcing his name.

The appointments are also a sign of appreciation for their work done for the Church. Below are a few short overviews of the careers of the six new cardinal-priests:

Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran is 71, and was born in Bordeaux, France. From 1969 to 1990 he was a priest of the Archdiocese of Bordeaux (-Bazas), after which he was appointed as secretary in the department of the Secretariat of State that deals with the relations with other nations. From 2003 to 2007 he worked as archivist of the Vatican Secret Archives and librarian of the Vatican Library. In 2007 he took up his current office: President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, in which he is responsible for the ecumenical outreach of the Church.

Francesco Marchisano is 84 and hails from Italy. A priest of the Archdiocese of Turin since 1952, he became Secretary of the Pontifical Commission of Preserving the Church’s Patrimony of Art and History in 1988, and he remained so until 2003. During that time he also had several other tasks: he was President of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology from 1991 to 2004; President of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church from 1993 to 2003; President of the Fabric of St. Peter from 2002 to 2004; and Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica from 202 to 2006. His final office before retirement was as President of the Labour Office of the Apostolic See from 2005 to 2009. Cardinal Marchisano retired at the age of 80.

Julián Herranz Casado is also 84 and comes from Spain. He was ordained a priest from Opus Dei in 1955 and was appointed as Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts in 1983. In 1994 he was appointed as the President of that same Council, a position he held until his retirement in 2007. Cardinal Herranz was also one of the cardinals entrusted by Pope Benedict XVI with the investigation into the VatiLeaks scandal.

Javier Lozano Barragán, from Mexico, is 81, and was ordained a priest in 1955. From 1979 to 1985 he was auxiliary bishop of Mexico and later the bishop of Zacatecas until 1996. In 1997 he came to Rome to become President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, a position he held until retiring in 2009.

Attilio Nicora, 77, comes from the Archdiocese of Milan, where he was a priest from 1964 to 1977. He became auxiliary bishop of Milan until resigning 1987. In 1994 he took on a new task, as Bishop of Verona, where he stayed until 2002. In that year he became President of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See until retiring in 2011. In recent years he headed the Financial Information Authority of the Holy See.

Georges Marie Martin Cottier, lastly, is 92 and hails from Switzerland. He joined the Dominican Order in 1946 and was ordained in 1951. A distinguished professor and theologian, he was secretary of the International Theological Commission and has also been Theologian of the Papal Household.