Honest Thomas – some thoughts about today’s saint

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, best known as Doubting Thomas. The passage from John 20, in which Jesus appears after His death on the cross, but Thomas happens to be absent is well known. Thomas refuses to believe what he didn’t see for himself, only to be corrected by the Lord when He appears again and shows His wounds to Thomas, even inviting him to place his hand in the wound in His side.

“You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29).

thomasRich as this passage from the Gospels is, and it teaches us much about the nature of faith, there is more to St. Thomas than this. In the Bible, he appears in all four Gospels, as well as in the Acts of the Apostles. Matthew (10:3), Mark (3:18) and Luke (6:15) first list him among the Apostles called by Jesus, while John first mentions him in the story of the death of Lazarus, where Thomas seems a bit defeatist. Upon hearing Jesus’ decision to go to Bethany, in the land of the Jews who had earlier tried to kill Jesus, he says, “Let us also go to die with him”  (John 11:16). Still, it indicates a willingness on Thomas’ part to follow Jesus whatever the consequences, even if death is one. Not exactly the sign of a doubting follower.

Later in the Gospel of John, we see another side to Thomas: the questioning follower, the man trying to understand. As Jesus announces His return to the Father, telling the apostles that they know where He is going and how to get there, Thomas replies, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5). This prompts Jesus to teach him – and us – that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Thomas comes across as honest and straightforward, not afraid to ask about what he doesn’t understand. The next time we come across him is in the aforementioned passage of the Lord’s appearance in his absence. Thomas doubts, is still as honest and straightforward as ever, but not stubborn: he accepts what the Lord teaches him and professes his faith in his Lord and God.

Thomas appears once more among the disciples to whom Jesus appears at the Sea of Tiberias (John 21;2), but the Evangelist does not tell us any details about what Thomas may have said or done. But he did witness Jesus giving Peter the task to look after His sheep. After the Lord’s Ascension, Thomas remains with the other disciples, as Acts 1:13 tells us, part of the young and rapidly growing Church.

That’s all the Bible tells us about St. Thomas, but it’s enough to slightly correct the image we have of him as a doubter. It would be more accurate to see him as a very honest man, to himself and to others. He is not afraid to ask questions, or even to ask others to be more clear, but also does not hesitate to recognise his own errors and correct them.

Several post-Biblical sources tell of Thomas travelling to India to preach the Gospel there. Indeed, south India is home to the St. Thomas Christians, who can be traced back to the 2nd or 3rd century. The trip from the Holy Land to India would at least have been possible in the first century, as trade relations existed between the subcontinent and the Roman Empire. It is hard to tell what is true and what is apocryphal in this, but the fact remains that Thomas is strongly connected to Southern Asia, and Christian communities appeared very early in India. A strong-willed follower of Jesus may well have taken it upon himself to undertake such a perilous and uncertain mission to remote parts, all to spread the Gospel and enkindle the faith, serving the Lord as he did from the moment he was first called.

Pentecost – new priests in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands

ordinationIn the time during and following Pentecost, the dioceses in Northwestern Europe generally get new priests, as seminarians are ordained during this time in which the Church remembers and celebrates the Holy Spirit’s descent upon the Apostles and His continuing work in the Church today.

The ordinations are spread out across the entire month of June, with the first batch having taken place last weekend. On 6 June, Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck ordained Fathers Marius Schmitz (30) and Christoph Werecki (28) for the Diocese of Essen, and on Sunday the 7th the vast majority followed, with 5 new priests in Aachen, 4 in Berlin, 1 in Dresden-Meiβen, 1 in Erfurt, 3 in Hamburg, 2 in Münster, 2 in Osnabrück, 5 in Paderborn and also 5 in Würzburg. Additionally, 6 transitional deacons were ordained in München und Freising, as well as 2 permanent deacons in Trier.

On Monday the 9th, the first of a number of ordinations in the Netherlands took place, of Father Ton Jongstra in ‘s Hertogenbosch. He was ordained for the Focolare movement. On Saturday, 14 June, 2 new priests will be ordained for Haarlem-Amsterdam and 1 for Roermond. On the same day, in Würzburg, two Franciscan priests will be ordained. On 21 June, one priest will be ordained for Utrecht.

Lastly, on the 22nd, 2 new priests will be ordained for Mechelen-Brussels, one transitional deacon for Bruges on the 25th, and a final new priest for Ghent on the 29th

All in all, we’re looking at 41 new priests, 7  transitional deacons and 2 permanent deacons in the dioceses of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. The youngest priest is 25-year-old Fr. Johannes van Voorst tot Voorst, to be ordained for the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam; most senior is 63-year-old Fr. Joost Baneke, Archdiocese of Utrecht. The average age is 33 for the priests and 34 for the deacons.

Most new priests and deacons come from the dioceses for which they are ordained, but some have come from abroad. Fr. Alberto Gatto (Berlin) comes from Italy, Fr. Przemyslaw Kostorz (Dresdem-Meiβen) from Poland, Fr. Mario Agius (Haarlem-Amsterdam) from Malta, Fr. Jules Lawson (Hamburg) from Togo, Fr. Jiji Vattapparambil (Münster) from India, and Fr. Alejandro Vergara Herrera  (Roermond) from Chile.

Below an overview of names, dates and the like of the latest influx of men who will administer that most necessary of services to the faithful: the sacrament of the Eucharist.

6 June:

Diocese of Essen: Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck ordains Fathers Marius Schmitz (30) and Christoph Werecki (28).

7 June:

Diocese of Aachen: Bishop Heinrich Mussinghoff ordains Fathers Matthias Goldammer (27), David Grüntjens (26), Achim Köhler (40), Michael Marx (30) and Andreas Züll (38).

Archdiocese of Berlin: Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki ordains Fathers Alberto Gatto (40), Bernhard Holl (33), Johannes Rödiger (33) and Raphael Weichlein (31).

Diocese of Dresden- Meiβen: Bishop Heiner Koch ordains Father Przemyslaw Kostorz (27).

Diocese of Erfurt: Bishop Reinhard Hauke ordains Father Andreas Kruse (44).

Diocese of Fulda: Bishop Heinz Josef Algermissen ordains Father Markus Agricola.

hamburg, jaschke, priests

^Archdiocese of Hamburg: Bishop Hans-Jochen Jaschke ordains Fathers Heiko Kiehn (33), Roland Keiss (29) and Jules Lawson (47).

Archdiocese of München und Freising: Reinhard Cardinal Marx ordains transitional Deacons Alois Emslander (29), Johannes Kappauf (28), Manuel Kleinhans (30), Michael Maurer (28), Martin Reichert (26) and Simon Ruderer (30).

Diocese of Münster: Bishop Felix Genn ordains Fathers Jiji Vattapparambil (35) and Thomas Berger (38).

Diocese of Osnabrück: Bishop Franz-Josef Bode ordains Fathers Hermann Prinz (44) and Kruse Thevarajah (29).

Archdiocese of Paderborn: Archbishop Hans-Josef Becker ordains Fathers Christof Graf (28), Markus Hanke (41), Stefan Kendzorra (29), Tobias Kiene (28) and Raphael Steden (26).

Diocese of Trier: Bishop Stephan Ackermann ordains permanent Deacons Hans Georg Bach (59) and Michael Kremer (51).

Diocese of Würzburg: Bishop Friedhelm Hofmann ordains Fathers Andreas Hartung (31), Sebastian Krems (38), Paul Reder (42), Michael Schmitt (31) and Simon Schrott (29).

9 June:

Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch/Focolare movement: Bishop Jan van Burgsteden ordains Father Ton Jongstra (56).

14 June:

Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam: Bishop Jan Hendriks ordains Fathers Johannes van Voorst tot Voorst (25) and Mario Agius (31).

Diocese of Roermond: Bishop Frans Wiertz ordains Father Alejandro Vergara Herrera (34).

Diocese of Würzburg/ Franciscans: Bishop Firedhelm Hoffman ordains Fathers Martin Koch (33) and Konrad Schlattmann (28).

21 June:

Archdiocese of Utrecht: Wim Cardinal Eijk ordains Father Joost Baneke (63).

22 June:

Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels: Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard ordains Fathers Gaëtan Parein (37) and Denis Broers (54).

25 June:

Diocese of Bruges: Bishop Jozef De Kesel ordains transitional Deacon Matthias Noë (24).

29 June:

Diocese of Ghent: Bishop Luc Van Looy ordains Father Herbert Vandersmissen (32).

Photo credit: [1] ordinations in Aachen, Andreas Steindl, [2] new priests of Hamburg, K. Erbe

Cardinal watch: Cardinal Pimenta passes away

Pimenta0001

On Friday, Simon Ignatius Cardinal Pimenta passed away. The Indian prelate was 93 and lived at the Clergy Home for retired priest in Mumbai.

Born in 1920, Simon Pimenta attended St. Pius X seminary and also studied pedagogy and mathematics at Bombay State University. In 1949 he was ordained for the Archdiocese of Bombay. As a priest he assisted in parishes and also worked at the local Curia.

In 1954, Father Pimenta graduated in Canon Law from the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome. Back in Bombay, he continued assisting in parishes, in addition to working as secretary to the archbishop, Valerian Cardinal Gracias. He was also vice-chancellor and defender of the bond. From 1959 to 1960, Fr. Pimenta was also adminstrator of the Cathedral of the Holy Name. In following years, he was episcopal vicar for the formation of young priests and for the liturgy, a topic he also taught at the seminary. He would eventually become seminary rector.

In 1971, Fr. Pimenta was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Bombay, with the titular see of Bocconia. Cardinal Gracias consecrated him, with Bishop Longinus Pereira, auxiliary of Bombay, and Bishop William Gomes, ordinary of Poona, serving as co-consecrators. In 1977, he was appointed to succeed Cardinal Gracias, and became Coadjutor Archbishop of Bombay. He took over as Metropolitan Archbishop in 1978.

Archbishop Pimenta would remain as Bombay’s shepherd for 18 years, until his retirement in 1996. In 1988, he was created a cardinal and given the title church of  Santa Maria “Regina Mundi” a Torre Spaccata. He was president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India from 1982 to 1988 and from 1994 to 1996.

202 cardinals remain in the College of Cardinals, with 112 of them being electors.

Francis’ first – bring out the pallia

palliumTomorrow we celebrate the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Stone and the Apostle, and, as always, the Church invests the newly appointed metropolitan archbishops with the sign of their office and authority: the pallium. This year 34 archbishops have travelled to Rome to receive their white band of lamb’s wool, while a 35th, Vietnamese Archbishop Le Van Hong, will receive his at home.

In alphabetical order they are:

  1. Archbishop Antonio Carlos Altieri, S.D.B., of Passo Fundo, Brazil
  2. Archbishop George Antonysamy of Madras and Mylapore, India
  3. Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera Lopez of Monterrey, Mexico
  4. Archbishop Sérgio Eduardo Castriani, C.S.Sp., of Manaus, Brazil
  5. Archbishop Murray Chatlain of Keewatin-Le Pas, Canada
  6. Archbishop Peter Loy Chong of Suva, Fiji
  7. Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone of San Francisco, USA
  8. Archbishop Alfonso Cortes Contreras of Leon, Mexico
  9. Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto of Delhi, India
  10. Archbishop Claudio Dalla Zuanna, S.C.I., of Beira, Mozambique
  11. Archbishop Ramon Alfredo Dus of Resistencia, Argentina
  12. Archbishop Joseph Effiong Ekuwem of Calabar, Nigeria
  13. Archbishop Carlos Maria Franzini of Mendoza, Argentina
  14. Archbishop Lorenzo Ghizzoni of Ravenna-Cervia, Italy
  15. Archbishop Gintaras Linas Grusas of Vilnius, Lithuania
  16. Archbishop Sergio Alfredo Gualberti Calandrina of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia
  17. Archbishop Duro Hranic of Dakovo-Osijek, Croatia
  18. Archbishop Michael Owen Jackels of Dubuque, USA
  19. Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski of Lodz, Poland
  20. Archbishop Jesus Juarez Parraga, S.D.B., of Sucre, Bolivia
  21. Archbishop Jozef Piotr Kupny of Wroclaw, Poland
  22. Archbishop Francois Xavier Le Van Hong of Hue, Vietnam
  23. Patriarch Manuel Jose Macario do Nascimento Clemente, patriarch of Lisbon, Portugal
  24. Archbishop Prakash Mallavarapu of Visakhapatnam, India
  25. Archbishop Fabio Martinez Castilla of Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico
  26. Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga, C.S.Sp., of Bangui, Central African Republic
  27. Archbishop Giuseppe Petrocchi of L’Aquila, Italy
  28. Archbishop Mario Aurelio Poli of Buenos Aires, Argentina
  29. Archbishop Carlo Roberto Maria Redaelli of Gorizia, Italy
  30. Archbishop Alexander King Sample of Portland in Oregon, USA
  31. Archbishop Moacir Silva of Ribeirao Preto, Brazil
  32. Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, Great Britain
  33. Archbishop Joseph William Tobin, C.Ss.R., of Indianapolis, USA
  34. Archbishop Rolando Joven Tria Tirona, O.C.D., of Caceres, Philippines
  35. Archbishop John Wong Soo Kau of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Last year, the order of the liturgy was changed somewhat to remove any suggestion that the imposition of the pallia is a sacrament, and that change remains in effect. For Pope Francis this first feast of Sts. Peter and Paul as Pope will see him meeting several of his erstwhile brothers from the Argentine bishops’ conference, including his own successor in Buenos Aires, one of his very first appointments as Pope, Archbishop Mario Poli.

The full texts of the liturgy, which starts at 9:30 tomorrow morning, can be found here.

Three times three new priests

new priests roermondIn this first week after Pentecost, three dioceses in the Netherlands are gearing up to ordain three priests each on Saturday. While it is no set rule, it is customary for new priests to be ordained around this time. Later on in the year, the expectation is that there will be at least one more ordination coming up in the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, for example.

Tomorrow, however it will the Dioceses of ‘s Hertogenbosch, Haarlem-Amsterdam and Roermond’s turn. Diocese by diocese, here are the new priests:

Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch, to be ordained by Bishop Antoon Hurkmans in the Cathedral Basilica of St. John:

  • Harm Eskes
  • Peter Koen
  • Bart Theunissen

Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, to be ordained by Bishop Jan Hendriks, the auxiliary, since Bishop Jos Punt has decided to temporarily lessen his workload in preparation for surgery:

  • Fred Deen
  • Jeroen de Wit
  • José Marin de Val

Diocese of Roermond, to be ordained by Bishop Frans Wiertz in St. Christopher’s cathedral (and depicted above on the cover of the diocesan magazine):

  • Roderick van Attekum
  • Carlos Martinez
  • Ralf Schreiber

With three of the new priest hailing from outside the Dutch borders (Marin del Val and Martinez are Colombian, and Schreiber German), this year’s class has a fairly strong international element. And that is a trend which will become steadily more standard in the future, particularly since the Diocese of Roermond has just announced that no less than six Indian seminarians will be trained to become priests in that diocese. Starting their time in the Netherlands with an intensive fulltime course to learn the Dutch language, it will be interesting to see if and how these priests succeed in adapting to Dutch society, mentality and culture.

For now, however, prayers for the new priests of this year and all the years to come. May their numbers ever increase, for we do indeed need them.

And finally, to close with the reminder that Pope Francis imparted to the priests he ordained on 21 April:

“[D]ear sons, exercising for your part the office of Christ, Head and Shepherd, while united with the Bishop and subject to him, strive to bring the faithful together into one family, so that you may lead them to God the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit. Keep always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve, and who came to seek out and save what was lost.”

A second Red Dawn rises

While fog hides the view from my window, a red dawn rises over Rome as Pope Benedict XVI gets ready to create six new members of the College of Cardinals. Who are these princes of the Churches again, in the smallest crop since the 1977 consistory which, among others, saw one Joseph Ratzinger made a cardinal?

Archbishop James Michael Harvey was, until yesterday, the Prefect of the Papal Household. As was announced earlier, he was moved yesterday to become Archpriest of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls. In many eyes, this is a classic promotion out of the limelight for Cardinal-designate Harvey’s role in the Vatileaks case. Under his watch, papal documents were stolen and published, with the archbishop defending the convicted papal butler Paolo Gabriele before his actions became clear. While he was never even implicated, it is said that Archbishop Harvey submitted his resignation to the pope after Gabriele’s arrest. While prefects of the Household are usually eventually made cardinals, this happens when they were past retirement age. Cardinal-designate Harvey is 63.

As archpriest of a papal basilica, he has certain custodial and liturgical functions (which are worthy in their own right), but very few, if any, well-defined duties in the Roman Curia.

Cardinal Harvey will be a Cardinal-Deacon.

Patriarch Béchara Pierre Raï is the head of the Maronite Catholic Church of the Middle East, especially Lebanon. His three predecessor were also cardinals, so his creation is not a surprise.  And perhaps the pope’s recent visit to Lebanon also played a role in cementing his nomination. Patriarch Raï is 72 and will be made a Cardinal-Bishop by virtue of his position at the head of a Catholic Church in union with Rome. He will not be given a title church, as he is outside the hierarchy of the Latin Church, but not outside the world Church.

Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal also heads a separate Church in union with Rome, the Syro-Malankar Church of India. He will be the youngest cardinal of all, and will be the first archbishop of Trivandrum to be made a cardinal. During the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelisation his bearded presence was already much noticed. Cardinal Thottunkal will be a Cardinal-Priest.

Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan is the much-respected archbishop of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. Most recently, he unequivocally spoke against the terrorist actions of Boko Haram in the north of Nigeria, while at the same time seeking relations with Muslims in Nigeria. He is also strongly against a proposed division of the country into a Christian south and a Muslim north. Nigeria’s old capital, Lagos, is also headed by a cardinal, but the value of the western country in the Church is surely reflected by this appointment if a second one, who will be a Cardinal-Priest.

Archbishop Jesús Rubén Salazar Gómez is the archbishop of Bogotá, capital of Colombia, a nation which, considering its Catholic population, was long overdue for the appointment of a second cardinal. Clearly pro-life, Cardinal-designate Salazar Gómez will also be a Cardinal-Priest.

Archbishop Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle, is the rising star of the Church in Asia. Heading the major Archdiocese of Manila in the Philippines, Cardinal-designate Tagle will be the second-youngest cardinal of the bunch. He has his critics, but in general he is enormously popular, not least because of his use of social media. Affectionately referred to as “Archbishop Chito”, Cardinal-designate Tagle is a very welcome addition to the Asian part of the College. He, too, will be a Cardinal-Priest.

With the elevation of this international group, the first since 1924 to include no Europeans, the group of cardinals who are eligible to vote in a conclave reaches 120.

As for today’s ceremony, which will be conducted according to the exact same norms as this year’s previous one, it can be viewed via the Vatican Player, while the booklet for the celebration may be found here. Things are set to get rolling at 11am local time, which is 10am GMT.

A lingering question answered

Will or won’t Father Karl Josef Becker be created a cardinal today? Since yesterday, we can safely answer that question with a yes, as the photo below shows.

Seated next to Mar George Alencherry, Fr. Becker, the only non-bishop of the 22-member cardinal class of 2012, attended yesterday’s day of reflection and prayer. During the day, in addition to the new evangelisation, such topics like the religious situation in China and interreligious dialogue in India were discussed.

Set to start in less than 90 minutes, I’ll be following the consistory’s proceedings – with a special eye on my own former bishop, now the highest-ranking prelate in the Netherlands, Archbishop Wim Eijk, via the Vatican Radio stream.

Photo credit: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images