Bishop Liesen’s installation homily – On the nature of authority in the Church

Many thanks to the Diocese of Breda, who put the homily online that Bishop Jan Liesen gave at his installation last week. It’s an excellent text, a great start for the latest ordinary of the Dutch Church province. Bishop Liesen speaks about leadership, responsibility and the form it takes in the Church: the form of service.

My English translation is here.

Photo credit: R. Mangold

With his three predecessors looking on, Bishop Liesen takes Breda

Media coverage has been light, even in the Catholic press, but Bishop Jan Liesen nonetheless was installed as the eleventh Bishop of Breda yesterday.

Pre-installation, local media, interviewed faithful of the Diocese of Breda, asking what the expected from their new bishop. The general desire was for the new bishop to be ‘liberal’, in other words, not too push the more difficult bits of the Catholic faith too hard. I somehow doubt they’ll get their wish with scholar and theologian Jan Liesen.

Reflecting Bishop Liesen’s lack of liberal leanings, perhaps, is his using the staff, as pictured below, of one of his predecessors, Bishop Gerardus de Vet, who was Bishop of Breda from 1962 to 1967, and therefore the last pre-conciliar bishop of that diocese.

Speaking of predecessors, the Diocese of Breda is unique in that no less than three of its previous bishops are still alive. Bishop Hans van den Hende, of course, is now bishop of Rotterdam, but Breda has two emeriti as well: Bishop Tiny Muskens (bishop from 1994 to 2007) and Bishop Huub Ernst (1967-1992), at 94 the oldest Dutch bishop alive.

There is a small photo report of the installation available here.

Photo credit: R. Mangold/Diocese of Breda

Bishop Liesen’s installation tomorrow: “sowing to take root and bear fruit”

“You don’t control the results, but that does not change the obligation to do the best we can. There is an essential element of freedom in there. You belong to the Roman Catholic Church because you want to, as conviction you gladly have. Many “enrolled” as children, but it must be confirmed at some point. If it isn’t, it remains something superficial and will not bear fruit. For the intended effect of sowing is for it to take root and bear fruit.”

Words from Bishop Jan Liesen, spoken in an interview with Katholiek Nieuwsblad, prior to his installation as bishop of Breda tomorrow. The installation Mass, which will be concelebrated by Bishop Liesen, his predecessor, Bishop Hans van den Hende, Archbishop Wim Eijk of Utrecht, Bishop Antoon Hurkmans of ‘s Hertogenbosch (where Msgr. Liesen has been auxiliary bishop), other bishops present, and members of the cathedral chapter. The new Nuncio to the Netherlands, Archbishop André Dupuy, will not yet be present. Instead, the Holy See will be represented by Msgr. Habib Thomas Halim, secretary of the nunciature in The Hague.

With some 500 people invited, the Mass is closed to visitors, simply because of the relatively small size of the Cathedral of St. Anthony. Priority has been given to representatives of the parishes of the diocese, as well as various dignitaries. In addition to the bishops mentioned above, Bishop Wiertz, De Korte, Punt, Mutsaerts, Hoogenboom and Hendriks will also be present, as well as Bishops Bonny and De Kesel from the two Belgian dioceses that border Breda, and the emeriti Cardinal Simonis, and Bishops Ernst, Muskens and Van Burgsteden.

On a plaque in the cathedral, Bishop Liesen's name has been added to the lists of bishops of Breda

The Queen’s Commissioners in the provinces of Zeeland and Noord-Brabant, the mayor of Breda and the governor of the Royal Military Academy, which is located in Breda, will also attend the Mass or the following reception.

A new home back home – Bishop Liesen comes to Breda

As a leak in the official embargo of the news virtually established as fact yesterday, the Diocese of Breda announced the name of its new bishop at noon today. He is Msgr. Jan Liesen, currently one of the two auxiliary bishops of the neighbouring Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch. In a first reaction to the news, published minutes ago on Youtube, Bishop Liesen comes across as overwhelmed at the news, yet also humble, well-spoken and amiable.

Bishop Liesen was appointed to Breda fairly shortly after his consecration to bishop, which happened on 18 September of last year. A reassignment this soon after the previous one began is not unheard of, but pretty rare.

The appointment of Bishop Liesen to succeed Bishop Hans van den Hende, who was appointed to the Diocese of Rotterdam in May of this year and installed in July, provides for continuity. Both bishops know each other from their studies in Rome and seem to be equally all-round and firmly rooted in the Church. Bishop Liesen is an established teacher and theologian (as member of the International Theological Commission, he is off to Rome tomorrow for that body’s annual plenary meeting), with ample experience, as both bishops attest to in the video above.

Bishop Liesen will be installed as the 11th bishop of Breda on 28 January.

Photo credit: Bisdom Den Bosch

Two years in the making, a new archbishop for Luxembourg

For a while now, I’ve seen people arrive on my blog via search terms like ‘new archbishop Luxembourg’. Perhaps they knew things I didn’t (not a very radical notion), because just today, the Vatican announced just that, a new archbishop for Luxembourg.

The archbishop emeritus, Msgr. Fernand Franck, was , at 77, already well past the retirement age, but for reasons we can only guess at, it took this long for a successor to be named. And that successor is Jesuit Fr. Jean-Claude Hollerich, pictured to the left with Msgr. Franck. Archbishop elect Hollerich is 52, and a priest since 1990. His biography mentions his education in Rome, Belgium, Germany and Japan, and indicates that Msgr. Hollerich is something of a language scholar, having extensively studied both Japanese and German. His list of publications, varying from writings about the origins of school grammars to European grammar in Asia, and with side excursions to the rise of national awareness of Luxembourg and the history of French Jesuits in Siam. Much of his experience, it would seem, he gained while working in the Archdiocese of Tokyo and as vice rector of the Sophia University there.

The archdiocese that Msgr. Hollerich will soon call his responsibility tends to be too easily forgotten. It wasn’t until 1840, one year after Luxembourg’s independence as a grand duchy was reaffirmed by the First Treaty of London, that it was split off from the Diocese of Namur as a separate apostolic vicariate. In 1870 it was promoted to a diocese, and only in 1988 was it elevated to the status of archdiocese. As the only diocese in Luxembourg, it’s archbishop is not a member of a bishops’ conference, although it does share a papal nuncio with Belgium.

There are an estimated 390,000 Catholics out of a total population of 511,000, served by some 250 priests and 550 religious.

Archbishop elect Hollerich will be consecrated to bishop and installed as Luxembourg’s third archbishop on 16 October. at the cathedral of Our Lady in the city of Luxembourg.

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.

Bishop van den Hende to Rotterdam

When the news broke yesterday that the name of the new bishop of Rotterdam would be announced at noon today, the rumour mill started to turn. And in all those rumours, speculations, and (semi-) educated guesses, one name kept popping up more than any other: that of Msgr. Hans van den Hende, the bishop of Breda. And, indeed, his was the name announced at the start of the afternoon.

The official portrait of Bishop van den Hende, as used on the website of the Diocese of Breda
A bishop moving from one diocese to the next, while not unheard of, is a fairly rare occurrence in the Netherlands. In the recent past we’ve only had Bishop Eijk who moved from Groningen-Leeuwarden to become archbishop in Utrecht. The reasons why it happens now may be myriad, but the fact that it involves the youngest bishop of the Netherlands (Msgr. van den Hende is 47), who has only helmed Breda for a little over four years, may be seen as a vote of confidence from Rome.
When he started in Breda after a year of being coadjutor bishop under Bishop Muskens, Bishop van den Hende gave the impression of a man who had a job to get on with. Never one for sensationalism, budget cuts or massive overhauls of diocesan programs, the Groningen-born bishop had a job to do, and he intended to get it done. Well, that job has now been replaced by a similar job in a larger and far more urban diocese. The effects of northern sensibility in the rapidly developing industrial west may surprise us.
Before all that becomes clear, the Diocese of Rotterdam will officially receive its new bishop on 2 July, the installation date, in the cathedral of Saints Lawrence and Elisabeth.
Bishops van den Hende (2nd left) and Van Luyn (2nd right) during the press conference today
During the press conference earlier today, Bishop van den Hende spoke about having to leave Breda after only a few years. He called it “a step in faith”.
“Saying yes in faith as a deacon, priest and bishop, are extensions of each other. I said that during the press conference on 9 September 2006, when I began in Breda. That the road of your vocation keeps demanding new steps becomes abundantly clear now that I accepted the pope’s request to become bishop of Rotterdam. This new ‘yes’ is also an extension of the first. When you start somewhere as bishop it is a prerequisite to perform the pastoral task you have received with all your heart.”
Finally, the Dutch bishops’ conference released the following statement:
“The Dutch bishops are grateful and pleased with the appointment of Msgr. van den Hende as bishop of the Diocese of Rotterdam. The bishops congratulate their colleague, who is now bishop of Breda, with this appointment and look forward to continuing the good collaboration.
We know Msgr. van den Hende as a modest and congenial man who works with much dedication, loyalty and involvement in his Diocese of Breda. We are convinced that he will continue his service to the Lord and His Church fruitfully in the Diocese of Rotterdam. We therefore congratulate the Diocese of Rotterdam wholeheartedly with this appointment.
We also congratulate Msgr. van Luyn with the appointment of Msgr. van den Hende.
The Dutch bishops  realise that the faithful of the Diocese of Breda, after only five years, have to bid farewell to Msgr. van den Hende.”

Photo credit:
[1] Raymond Mangold
[2] Geertje Algera