Looking behind

As the year of Our Lord 2011 draws to a close, I happily join the ranks of the countless media channels creating overviews of the years past. And both for this blog, as well as the Catholic Church in the Netherlands and abroad, it has been a tumultuous year, both positive and negative. Taking this blog as the goggles we use to look back, blog, Church and wider world become unavoidably intertwined, but, in a way, that is how it should be.

In January, we saw the announcement of the beatification of Pope John Paul II, the resignation of Rotterdam’s Bishop Ad van Luyn being accepted, and the launch of Blessed Titus Brandsma’s Twitter adventure.

February was the month of interesting considerations by Bishop Schneider about Vatican II, shocking new developments in the abuse crisis, the announcement of a undeservedly short-lived experiment with the Extraordinary Form in the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, the first signs that all is not well in Belgium, but also three new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels, and the vacancy of Berlin.

March brought us disturbing news about Bishop Cor Schilder, an extensive message for Lent from the Dutch bishops, disaster in Japan, the announcement of a great ecumenical media project for Easter, and the annual Stille Omgang in Amsterdam.

April: the month of the consecration of Bishops Kockerols, Lemmens and Hudsyn, the first EF Mass in Groningen’s cathedral, further attempts at repressing religious freedom in the Netherlands, the bishops of Belgium uniting in shock to further improprieties from Roger Vangheluwe, the pope’s birthday, further personal attacks against Archbishop Eijk and the first preparations for Madrid.

In May we saw and read about the death of Bin Laden, the beatification of John Paul II, the first Vatican blogmeet, the appointment of Bishop van den Hende to Rotterdam, the publication of Universae Ecclesiae, a prayer answered, a papal visit to Venice, enraging comments from the Salesian superior in the Netherlands, and subsequent press releases from the Salesian Order.

June was the month of papal comments about new evangelisation and sacred music, the end of EF Masses in Groningen, the pope visiting Croatia, a new bishop in Görlitz, Bishop van Luyn’s farewell to Rotterdam, advice on financial compensation for abuse victims, Archbishop Eijk taking over as president of the Dutch bishops’ conference, and the death of Cardinal Sterzinsky.

In July, Bishop Rainer Woelki went to Berlin, there was more preparation for Madrid, Bishop van den Hende was installed as bishop of Rotterdam, the pope visited San Marino, Luxembourg received a new archbishop, Bootcamp 2011 took place, Bishop Liesen appeared on EWTN, Blessed Titus Brandsma ended his Twitter adventure, and the crimes of Anders Breivik hit home for Dutch Catholics.

August was a big month because of the World Youth Days in Madrid, but we also learned about Archbishop Dolan’s explanation of the Vatican, freedom of conscience being curtailed, the 100,000th visitor of this blog, and the Liempde affair exploding in the media.

In September, the official website of the Dutch Church got a make-over, Archbishop Eijk wrote a thankyou note to the participants of the WYD, The Dutch bishops’ conference shuffled their responsibilities, and Pope Benedict visited Germany and delivered an important address to the Bundestag.

October, then, saw a successful reunion of the WYD troupe, Bishop Mutsaerts’ intervention in the ultra-liberal San Salvator parish, the bishops declining a proposal to Protestantise the Church, the consecration of Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, the publication of Porta Fidei and the announcement of a Year of Faith, the appointment of a new Dutch ambassador to the Holy See, the appointment of Msgr. Hendriks as auxiliary bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam, the first Night of Mary, and Assisi 2011.

In November, Cardinal Burke came to Amsterdam, the bishops accept and put into action a plan for financial compensation for victims of sexual abuse, the Peijnenburg affair made headlines, the pope went to Benin and heartwarmingly spoke to children, priests in Belgium tempted excommunication, Cardinal Simonis turned 80, Bishop Liesen became the new bishop of Breda, and a fifty-year-old letter showed that congregations new about abuse happening in their ranks.

This final month of December, then, saw the first fifty victims of sexual abuse being able to claim financial compensation, the presentation of plans for Metropolis 2012, Nuncio Bacqué’s retirement, the consecration of Bishop Jan Hendriks, pain and horror in Liège, the appointment of Archbishop André Dupuy as new Nuncio, and the publication of the Deetman report unleashing emotional reactions everywhere.

It’s been quite the year, but one with much to be thankful for. The truth sets us free seems especially apt in this final month, but can be applied to the entire year. May 2012 be equally open, honest, but also full of blessings for the Church, the people and everyone of us.

Thank you, readers, for the continued interest. That’s incentive to keep on doing what I do here.

A happy new year, and may God bless you all.

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Stats for March 2011

 With Lent having begun this month, the top 10 of most-read posts has a distinct Lenten taste. Last year’s post about the Stations of the Cross is, fittingly for this time of year, at number 1. Japan ranks understandably also high, as  do messages for Lent, and a post about Ash Wednesday.

The number of visitors for March was 4,939, the second-highest number since I began this blog. The total number of visitors is now 76,943.

1: The Stations of the Cross 247
2: A surprise to no one, a Dutch politician in favour of rampant secularisation 137
3: Pray for Japan 94
4: To rub or not to rub 93
5: Boodschap voor de Vastentijd 2011 64
6: Bootcamp program unfolds 53
7: Stille Omgang 2011, Dutch missionary bishop in the dock 52
8: Dutch bishops’ encouragement for Lent 49
9: Papal message for Lent 43
10: St. John the Baptist in Bulgaria? 40

Blogging from the scene

New on the blog roll: Bishop Isao’s Memo, the blog of Msgr. Isao Kikuchi, bishop of Niigata, one of the dioceses hit by last week’s earthquake and tsunami. Bishop Kikuchi appeared on my blog before, with a quote about the Japanese Church’s intention to do their part in the relief of the stricken areas.

He blogs about the aftermath of the disaster in heavily-hit Sendai and the adjacent areas, and about his work with Caritas Japan and other Catholic relief agencies in the area. Interesting and current stuff!

Bishop Kikuchi is 52, and a member of the Society of the Divine Word, a missionary society founded in 1875 by St. Arnold Janssen in Steyl, the Netherlands. He made his vows in 1985 and was ordained a priest for the missionaries in 1986. In 2004 he became the third bishop of Niigata.

After the horror, aid arrives

On the middle of the day after the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, relief efforts are swinging into actions. Among them the Catholic Caritas Internationalis, which has issued a call for donations for relief in the disaster zone. Go here to see how you can donate.

Most of the aid by Catholic charities will initially be organised from outside the disaster area. The Dioceses of Sendai, Saitama and Niigata, which were affected most, still struggle to restore communications and establish contact with parishes, offices and people. Yasufumi Matsukuma, working for the Japanese bishops’ conference, said, “In Tokyo, telephone lines are so busy that I cannot contact diocesan chancellor offices in Japan. Aftershocks have followed. The tsunamis are terrible and we cannot get any information concerning the church yet” (via UCA News and Catholic News Service).

Bishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi of Niigata and president of Caritas Japan, said that, although the Catholic community is very small, “we will not walk away from our commitment and our solidarity with the victims.”

As for Caritas’s activities at the moment, Fr. Bonnie Mendes of Caritas Asia, has said, “We are in constant contact with the Caritas Japan, which is monitoring the situation, the damage and the victims. We hope that there are not too many casualties. We expect to have a better understanding of the situation of displaced persons and their need to plan an emergency intervention.”

Photo credit: AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS

Pray for Japan

“Certainly, there is an esprit among the people, indeed, all Japanese are required to participate in [earthquake] drills. The Church, too, does her part, and feels herself called to do all she can.”

“[The] organisation worked well. One truly feels what one is before nature and before the Lord, and we thank the Lord that Japan took steps to prepare.”

Words from Archbishop Alberto Bottari de Castello, the Nuncio to Japan, on a day that saw devastation brought to the north of that country. The Diocese of Sendai, which covers the northern tip of Honshu and the northwestern Pacific coast, has been hit hard. I’ll keep an eye out from news from that home of some 11,000 Catholics.

In the mean time, let’s pray for the intercession of Our Lady of Japan, Saint Francis Xavier and Saint Peter Baptist, patrons of Japan, for the safety of all affected by the earthquake and the tsunami that followed. May that prayer also extend to all on the shores and islands of the Pacific Ocean, still awaiting the arrival of the flood.

Photo credit: Kyodo News, via Associated Press