Fire island – St. Clement’s no more

st. clement amelandJust before day broke today, a raging fire reduced the church of St. Clement in Nes, on the island of Ameland, to ashes. Only the walls of the island’s sole Catholic church remain standing, the mayor of the island has said.

The devastating fire comes just two days after the new pastoral team was presented by the bishop. Under the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden’s consolidation of parishes, the local island parish is to be united with several mainland parishes. Parish priest Fr. Paul Verheijen travelled to the island this morning to support the local community.

Bishop Gerard de Korte calls the situation “dramatic”, but expects the church to be rebuilt and the local Protestant communities to be hospitable to the Catholic faithful on Ameland.

The church of St. Clemens was the church where Cardinal Jan de Jong, archbishop of Utrecht from 1936 to 1955, was baptised and where he offered his first Mass. In his days, the territory of Groningen-Leeuwarden was still part of the Archdiocese of Utrecht. The church was a national monument, built in 1877 by famed architect Pierre Cuypers, who also designed the diocese’s cathedral of St. Joseph in Groningen.

How Archbishop van de Wetering missed the red hat

van de weteringIn 1946 the archbishop of Utrecht became the first resident cardinal in the Netherlands since the Reformation. But Cardinal Jan de Jong need not have been the first.

Historical research indicates that in 1911 Pope Saint Pius X had his eyes on Archbishop Henricus van de Wetering as the first Dutch cardinal of modern times. But the publication of his encyclical Editae saepe, a year earlier, made that rather difficult, as that encyclical on Saint Charles Borromeo brought forth the fury of Queen Wilhelmina, who was less then pleased with the strong anti-Protestant language in the papal publication.

Making Archbishop van de Wetering, who headed the Archdiocese of Utrecht from 1895 to 1929, a cardinal would unnecessarily antagonise the queen and perhaps increase the anti-Catholic tendencies existing in Dutch society at that time.

Instead, Pius X went for a safer option: a Dutch cardinal, but one who was working in the Curia, on the Commission for the Codification of Canon Law and as general consultor of the Redemptorist order: Willem Marinus van Rossum.

After Cardinal de Jong, every archbishop of Utrecht was created a cardinal, if he wasn’t one already, such as Cardinal Willebrands.

Photo credit: Katholiek Documentatie Centrum, Nijmegen

A voice from the past

69 years after his death, Blessed Titus Brandsma has a Twitter account. He may be followed via PaterTitus42 (in Dutch) or FatherTitus42 (English).

But what can the beatified Carmelite priest, who worked closely with the Dutch bishops against the Nazi restrictions of press during World War II, and who died in the Dachau concentration camp, be twittering about? Well, starting on 19 January, the day of his arrest in 1942, a Catholic Radio 5 program and the Dutch Carmelite Institute will publish daily tweets about what happened to Blessed Titus, what he did and with whom he spoke. The project will last six months, ending on 26 July, the day of his death.

The press release calls it a world premier, a form of ‘real-time history’ that has never been done on Twitter. I do think that something similar has been done before, albeit not in a Catholic context.

Blessed Titus Brandsma was beatified in 1985 and is one of the few ‘modern’ Blesseds from the Netherlands, let alone from the north. He was a born Frisian, although he worked and lived mostly in Nijmegen.

During the war and the German occupation of the Netherlands, Blessed Titus, who was a trained journalist, worked closely with the Dutch bishops, led by Cardinal Jan de Jong. Shortly before being arrested, Blessed Titus travelled across the country to convince editors of newspapers not to run pro-German adverts and articles. The occupier was none too pleased about it, and had the Carmelite priest arrested. Blessed Titus arrived in Dachau in June and was killed by lethal injection a month later.