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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.

sandoval íñiguezA force to be reckoned with for those with differing ideas, Juan Cardinal Sandoval Íñiguez marks his 80th birthday today, leaving 113 electors in a College of Cardinals numbering 206.

The Mexican prelate was born as the oldest of 12 children (of whom nine survived into adulthood). As a 12-year-old, young Juan entered seminary in 1945 and eventually found himself in Rome. There, he was ordained a priest in 1957, and he also earned a degree in philosophy and a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Returning to Mexico in 1961, Fr. Sandoval started a career at the seminary of Guadalajara, first as spiritual director, and later as teacher, prefect and eventually, in 1980, as rector. He also served as a member of the Presbyteral Council and Clergy commission of the Archdiocese of Guadalajara.

In 1988, he was appointed as Coadjutor Bishop of Ciudad Juárez, serving with Bishop Manuel Talamás Camandari, who retired in 1992. Bishop Sandoval then became ordinary until 1994, which means he spent more time in Ciudad Juárez as coadjutor than as ordinary.

In 1993, Archbishop Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo of Guadalajara had been murdered in either a drug gang shootout or a politically motivated assassination, and Bishop Sandoval was appointed to succeed him. In the same year as this appointment, Archbishop Sandoval was created a cardinal, with the title church of Nostra Signora di Guadalupe e San Filippo Martire.

Cardinal Sandoval was no unknown in Rome, being appointed as Relator general of the Special Assembly on America of the Synod of Bishops in 1997, and President-delegate of the 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist in 2005.

In Mexico, Cardinal Sandoval often appeared on television, teaching the catechism on a national Catholic network. He also caused ripples in the political scene, being the subject of an investigation into alleged financial misdemeanors and being charged with defamation of character when he accused a politician of accepting money for supporting the pro-gay marriage agenda.

Cardinal Sandoval was rarely know for being subtle, ruffling the feathers of Protestants, women and homosexuals while pointing out serious problems relating to these groups. And sometimes he simply said things he shouldn’t have said.

Cardinal Sandoval was a member of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

250px-Javier_Lozano_BarraganThe markedly strong-chinned Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán marks his 80th birthday today and so looses his position as a cardinal elector. There are now 118 electors remaining.

Born in Toluca in Mexico’s heartland, Javier Lozano Barragán attended seminary in Zamora and subsequently studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, earning a doctorate in theology. In 1955 he was ordained to the priesthood.

Returning to Mexico, Fr. Lonzano Barragán taught dogmatic theology and history of philosophy at the seminary of Zamora. He later headed the Pastoral Institute of the Latin American Bishops’ Conference.

In 1979 he was appointed as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of México with the titular see of Thinisa in Numidia. In 1984, Bishop Lozano Barragán was transferred to Zacatecas to become ordinary there. After twelve years, he once more returned to Rome as President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance of Health Care Workers. Two months later, at the start of 2007, he was granted the personal title of  archbishop.

Pope John Paul II created him a cardinal in his last consistory, in 2003. Cardinal Lozano Barragán received the title church of San Michele Arcangelo. In 2009 the cardinal retired as president of the health care council. He remained a member of the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, the Congregation for Causes of the Saints, and the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses until today.

Cardinal Lozano Barragán made headlines several times, mostly in defence of life. He is strongly opposed to abortion and euthanasia and received criticism over his stance on homosexuality, although he never advocated discrimination towards homosexuals. The cardinal anticipated Pope Benedict XVI several times, in his advocacy for a quick beatification of Pope John Paul II, and also in his alleged preparation of a report which would state that the use of condoms would be a lesser evil if one of two partners was infected with HIV. That report was never published, and the pope would later state that the use of condoms could signal a moral improvement on the part of the user.

It’s been quite the year for the Church in the world, in the Netherlands and here on the blog. In this post, I want to look back briefly on what has transpired. What happened before will, in many cases, have its effect on what will happen in the coming year.

The variety of events has been great, but if we had to characterise 2012, we can of course list the major stories: the two consistories for the creation of new cardinals, the ongoing abuse crisis and the efforts in the Netherlands and Rome to deal with it, the Synod of Bishops, the start of the Year of Faith, the retirements, appointments and deaths, the local stories in my neck of the woods and the (mis)representation of the Church in the wider world. These can all characterise the year for the Catholic Church. But since there are as many interpretations as there are readers, I’ll limit myself to presenting the major stories on my blog per month.

For this blog, it has been a good year. With 87,017 views it has been the best year yet, and I am happy to note that I have been able to provide stories, opinions and translations that have been picked up well by other bloggers and media. The pope’s letter to the German bishops on the new translation of the Roman missal, for which I was able to create an English working translation; the Dutch translation of the Christmas address to the Curia; a German interview with Archbishop Müller and my list of surviving Vatican II Council Fathers are examples of this. Both local and international media picked these up, resulting in increased interest for my blog. For that, thank you.

But now, let’s once more go over 2012 and look back on what happened in that year:

TscherrigJanuary:
- Pope Benedict announces a consistory. The list of 22 new cardinals includes the archbishop of Utrecht.
- CDF releases a note with recommendations for the Year of Faith.
- Archbishop Tscherrig (pictured) leaves Scandinavia for Argentina.
- Cardinal Zen Ze-Kiun turns 80.
- In the abuse crisis, soon-to-be Cardinal Eijk speaks before a parliamentary commission.
- Bishop Jan Liesen is installed as bishop of Breda (Installation homily here).

german cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki (R)February:
- Dutch-born South-African Bishop Everardus Baaij passes away.
- Cardinal Levada opens a major symposium on sexual abuse in Rome.
- At the same symposium, Msgr. Charles Scicluna tells it like it is.
- The bishops of Belgium reply to a modernist movement among priests and laity.
- Cardinal-designate Eijk is interviewed by Zenit.
- Cardinal-designate Dolan delivers a landmark address about the new evangelisation.
- 22 new cardinals are created in the consistory of 18 February (new Cardinal Eijk pictured).
- Responsibilities within the Dutch bishops’ conference are reshuffled.
- In Germany, Bishop Reinelt retires.
- Dominik Schwaderlapp is appointed as auxiliary bishop of Cologne.
- In Mainz, Bishop Guballa passes away after a long sickbed.
- Cardinal Eijk returns home with a pastoral letter on the Eucharist.

Pope Shenouda IIIMarch:
- Cardinal Eijk announces that he will be keeping a closer eye on the celebration of the liturgy.
- Cardinal Quezada Toruño turns 80.
- Cardinal Sánchez passes away.
- Cardinal Simonis speaks to Zenit about the Second Vatican Council.
- Copenhagen’s Bishop emeritus Martensen passes away.
- The Dutch bishops respond to a new horrible chapter in the abuse crisis.
- Coptic Pope Shenouda II (pictured) passes away.
- The Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam makes public all the cases concerning sexual abuse by clergy.
- A new presidency for the COMECE.
- The Dutch bishops issue a letter concerning the celebration of the Easter Triduum, and the need to return its focus to the Eucharist.
- Pope Benedict visits Mexico and Cuba.
- Bishop Schwaderlapp is consecrated.

aponte martínezApril:
- Cardinal Egan turns 80.
- In the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, the vicar general announces he will enter a monastery.
- In a letter to parliament, The Dutch bishops outline four developments in the fight against sexual abuse.
- Pope Benedict directly addresses groups of disobedient priests and laity.
- Cardinal Daoud passes away.
- Cardinal Eijk reveals a monument for victims of sexual abuse in the Church.
- Cardinal Aponte Martínez (pictured) passes away.
- A parliamentary committee hears the ‘contact group’ for victims of sexual abuse.
- The Dutch chapter of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem invests new members in the cathedral of Groningen-Leeuwarden.
- Pope Benedict writes a letter to the German bishops and enters the debate about the new German translation of the Roman Missal.

bishop de korte, new altar st. joseph's cathedralMay:
- After 66 years, the Belorussian Diocese of Pinsk finally gets a new bishop.
- A new page on the blog, about my conversion story.
- The annual pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed takes place.
- Cardinal Vlk turns 80.
- Cardinal Eijk takes possession if his title church.
- The Deetman Commission undertakes a new abuse investigation, this time into the abuse suffered by women.
- Berlin’s Cardinal Woelki is misunderstood about homosexuality.
- The cathedral of St. Joseph receives a new altar (Bishop de Korte anointing it pictured) and marks the 125th anniversary of its consecration.

logo year of faithJune:
- Pope Benedict XVI visits Milan.
- New priests.
- Cardinal Quezada Toruño passes away.
- Florian Wörner is appointed as auxiliary bishop of Augsburg.
- The bishops of Roermond publish a brochure about Communion.
– The Dutch bishops follow suit with a letter about the same topic.
- Cardinal Schwery turns 80.
- The Instrumentum laboris of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation is published.
- The logo for the Year of Faith is revealed (pictured).
- A round of personnel changes in the Curia.
- Dutch Father Louis Tijssen is declared venerable.
- Archbishop Nowacki is appointed as the new nuncio to Scandinavia.
- The Heel abuse affair breaks.
- President-Delegates are appointed for the Synod.

Gerhard Ludwig MüllerJuly:
- Archbishop Müller (pictured) is appointed as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
- About half of the world’s bishops’ conferences have formulated guidelines against sexual abuse.
- Cardinal de Araújo Sales passes away.
- Bishop Borys Gudziak is appointed as Apostolic Exarch of France.
- Cardinal Stafford turns 80.

carlo martiniAugust:
- Bishop Wörner is consecrated, while Bishops Wehrle and Siebler retire.
- The Diocese of Rotterdam publishes a Prayer for Faith.
- Cardinal Rosales turns 80.
- Cardinal Shan Kuo-Hsi passes away.
- Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor turns 80.
- A Dutch priest’s apparent refusal to baptise the child of a lesbian couple fails to escalate much.
- Cardinal Martini (pictured) passes away.

pope benedict  lebanonSeptember:
- Cardinal Martini’s last interview causes some debate.
- Bishop de Korte marks the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
- Rumours surface that priests in the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden are unhappy with their new appointments.
- Elections in the Netherlands result in a loss for the Christian parties.
- Cardinal Rubiano Sáenz turns 80.
- Pope Benedict (pictured) visits Lebanon.
- Misunderstandings about ecumenism in the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch.
- Pope Benedict XVI appoints 36 Synod Fathers.
- Cardinal Baldelli passes away.
- Questions arise about the German ‘Church tax’.
- The first progress report on how the Church deals with abuse claims is released.

synod of bishopsOctober:
- German Bishops Wanke and Schraml retire.
- Dutch missionary Bishop Joseph Willigers passes away.
- Morocco does not take kindly to the arrival of a Dutch ‘abortion boat’.
- Vatican Promotor of Justice Charles Scicluna is recalled to Malta to become auxiliary bishop.
- The Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation begins (pictured).
- Cardinal Erdö outlines eleven points for the new evangelisation of Europe.
- Belgian Curial Bishop Frans Daneels is made an archbishop.
- The Year of Faith begins.
- Pope Benedict announces a small consistory for November.
- The Synod of Bishops closes.
- An attempt at stopping liturgical abusive carnival Masses in Eindhoven.
- Amsterdam’s St. Nicholas church is to be made a basilica.

brother hugo vowsNovember:
- Cardinal Arinze turns 80.
- Bishop Demming passes away.
- New sexual abuse accusations surface in Iceland against Bishop Gijsen.
- Liège’s Bishop Jousten retires.
- At Rolduc, Dutch seminarians attend a conference on new evangelisation.
- Bishop Michael Hrynchyshyn passes away.
- Hermit Brother Hugo makes his perpetual vows (pictured).
- The student chaplaincy in Tilburg is brought back into the Catholic fold.
- European intolerance towards religion on display in Slovakia.
- Cardinal Martino turns 80.
- Pope Benedict XVI creates six new cardinals.
- Dominican Fr. Timothy Radcliffe speaks about the ‘official Church’.

pope twitterDecember:
- Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer is appointed as bishop of Regensburg.
- Dutch missionary Bishop Wilhelmus Demarteau passes away.
- Dutch government announces pulling the plug on small religious broadcasters.
- Georg Gänswein is appointed as Prefect of the Papal Household and will be made an archbishop.
- Cardinal Scheid turns 80.
- Pope Benedict enters the Twitterverse (pictured).
- Pope Benedict publishes the Apostolic Letter on charity, Intima Ecclesiae natura.
- Dutch media totally misrepresent the pope on the family and gender.

That was 2012. Now let’s get 2013 started. Happy new year!

benedict christmasBold headlines in the news yesterday. A brief selection from the ones I came across: “Pope wants to unite religions against gay marriage“, “Pope: Homosexuals destroy human nature“, “Pope: Gay marriage bad for future of family” and “Pope considers gay marriage threat to world peace“.

What was the reason for this flood of headlines? Pope Benedict XVI’s annual Christmas address to the Roman Curia, often considered to be the Holy Father’s ‘State of the Church’ address. In it, he looks back on the past year, summarising some of the high points and expounding on the general trends and topics that he considers significant. This year, the pope spoke about his visits to Cuba, Mexico and Lebanon, the International Meeting of Families in Milan, the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelisation and the Year of Faith. The bulk of the text, however, is a reflection of gender and the family, and how the understanding of both is interconnected and how they have changed in recent years. Rather than the male and female nature of humanity as a God-given reality, gender is now treated as something we can decide for our own. “Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will,” the Holy Father writes.

A second topic is that of the dialogue between religions and what form it should take, and a third issue is that of the proclamation of the Good News. Especially the latter passages can be considered good food for meditation and prayerful reflection.

Upon reading the text, something which I strongly suggest you do (be it in English via the link above, or in Dutch) you will find that not once does the pope raise the topic of homosexuality or marriage, or any combination of both. The headlines I mentioned above are therefore strongly deceptive, the product of willful ignorance, laziness or suggestive reporting.

This is a very serious issue. When the media so easily chooses pandering to what they perceive the masses should think about a topic, in this case the pope, over reporting what was actually said and done, they have become unreliable sources, little better than paparazzi and gossip magazines. The text of the address in question was available online on the very same day it was read out, in seven languages no less, and although it requires some concentration, it is not a difficult one to understand. There is really no excuse for reporting these untruths. Sadly, many readers will accept what these media write without question, assuming they write what is true.

It is up to as, as Catholics faithful to the Church and the magisterium, to correct these wrongs, because, quite simply, no one else will. That is why I worked hard to present a Dutch translation so soon, and publish it quite visible on Facebook on Twitter. The truth not only deserves, but also must be known. What the media failed to do yesterday not only hurts us and the Church, but also the truth.

More than two years ago, Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, then of Denver, suggested in a different context that we should not rely on what the secular media tell us if we can read what the pope himself actually said. That is no less true in this case.

At the end of another successful apostolic journey, it’s time to look back at the days the Holy Father spent in Cuba. The island nation may be officially Communist, but that does not mean that Pope Benedict XVI was not welcome. On the contrary. In addition to an official welcome by President Raúl Castro and a private meeting with his brother Fidel, the faithful of the country came out in droves to welcome the Holy Father enthusiastically. As in Mexico, this did much to energise the pope, who at times seemed quite fatigued, judging by the many press photos I have come across.

Now, let’s highlight some of the words that the Holy Father addressed to nthe people of Cuba and the world. The original texts are, as usual, available here.

Cuban President Raúl Castro speaks to Pope Benedict XVI upon the latter's arrival in Santiago de Cuba

Rebirth of society

“Many parts of the world today are experiencing a time of particular economic difficulty, that not a few people regard as part of a profound spiritual and moral crisis which has left humanity devoid of values and defenceless before the ambition and selfishness of certain powers which take little account of the true good of individuals and families. We can no longer continue in the same cultural and moral direction which has caused the painful situation that many suffer. On the other hand, real progress calls for an ethics which focuses on the human person and takes account of the most profound human needs, especially man’s spiritual and religious dimension. In the hearts and minds of many, the way is thus opening to an ever greater certainty that the rebirth of society demands upright men and women of firm moral convictions, with noble and strong values who will not be manipulated by dubious interests and who are respectful of the unchanging and transcendent nature of the human person” (Welcoming ceremony, Santiago de Cuba, 26 March).

A home for humanity

“In Christ, God has truly come into the world, he has entered into our history, he has set his dwelling among us, thus fulfilling the deepest desire of human beings that the world may truly become a home worthy of humanity. On the other hand, when God is put aside, the world becomes an inhospitable place for man, and frustrates creation’s true vocation to be a space for the covenant, for the “Yes” to the love between God and humanity who responds to him” (Homily, Santiago de Cuba, 26 March).

Human freedom

“It is touching to see how God not only respects human freedom: he almost seems to require it. And we see also how the beginning of the earthly life of the Son of God was marked by a double “Yes” to the saving plan of the Father – that of Christ and that of Mary. This obedience to God is what opens the doors of the world to the truth, to salvation” (Idem).

The lofty mission of the family

“The mystery of the Incarnation, in which God draws near to us, also shows us the incomparable dignity of every human life. In his loving plan, from the beginning of creation, God has entrusted to the family founded on matrimony the most lofty mission of being the fundamental cell of society and an authentic domestic church. With this certainty, you, dear husbands and wives, are called to be, especially for your children, a real and visible sign of the love of Christ for the Church” (Idem).

Truth

“The truth is a desire of the human person, the search for which always supposes the exercise of authentic freedom. Many, without a doubt, would prefer to take the easy way out, trying to avoid this task. Some, like Pontius Pilate, ironically question the possibility of even knowing what truth is (cf. Jn 18:38), claiming is incapable of knowing it or denying that there exists a truth valid for all. This attitude, as in the case of scepticism and relativism, changes hearts, making them cold, wavering, distant from others and closed. There are too many who, like the Roman governor, wash their hands and let the water of history drain away without taking a stand.

On the other hand, there are those who wrongly interpret this search for the truth, leading them to irrationality and fanaticism; they close themselves up in “their truth”, and try to impose it on others. These are like the blind scribes who, upon seeing Jesus beaten and bloody, cry out furiously, “Crucify him!” (cf. Jn 19:6). Anyone who acts irrationally cannot become a disciple of Jesus. Faith and reason are necessary and complementary in the pursuit of truth. God created man with an innate vocation to the truth and he gave him reason for this purpose. Certainly, it is not irrationality but rather the yearning for truth which the Christian faith promotes. Each man and woman has to seek the truth and to choose it when he or she finds it, even at the risk of embracing sacrifices.” (Homily, Havana, 28 March).

Pope Benedict meets with Fidel Castro in a private meeting at the nunciature in Havana. They spoke about study, books and changes in the liturgy.

Freedom of religion

“The Church lives to make others sharers in the one thing she possesses, which is none other than Christ, our hope of glory (cf. Col 1:27). To carry out this duty, she must count on basic religious freedom, which consists in her being able to proclaim and to celebrate her faith also in public, bringing to others the message of love, reconciliation and peace which Jesus brought to the world.

The right to freedom of religion, both in its private and in its public dimension, manifests the unity of the human person, who is at once a citizen and a believer. It also legitimizes the fact that believers have a contribution to make to the building up of society. Strengthening religious freedom consolidates social bonds, nourishes the hope of a better world, creates favourable conditions for peace and harmonious development, while at the same time establishing solid foundations for securing the rights of future generations.

When the Church upholds this human right, she is not claiming any special privileges for herself. She wishes only to be faithful to the command of her divine founder, conscious that, where Christ is present, we become more human and our humanity becomes authentic” (Idem).

Photo credits:
[1] Javier Galeano/AFP/Getty Images
[2], [3] Reuters/Tony Gentile
[4] Reuters/Osservatore Romano
[5] Esteban Felix/AFP/Getty Images

With the first half of the ongoing apostolic journey to Mexico and Cuba virtually behind us, it is time to take a look at some of the things that Pope Benedict XVI said to the faithful of Mexico, Latin America and the entire world, as the Church and the faith she teaches is never limited to geographical borders. Later today, the Holy Father will arrive in Cuba, and once that visit is wrapped up on Wednesday, we’ll take a look at the speeches and homilies given on the largest Caribbean island.

Pilgrim of faith, hope and love

“I come as a pilgrim of faith, of hope, and of love. I wish to confirm those who believe in Christ in their faith, by strengthening and encouraging them to revitalize their faith by listening to the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments and living coherently. In this way, they will be able to share their faith with others as missionaries to their brothers and sisters and to act as a leaven in society, contributing to a respectful and peaceful coexistence based on the incomparable dignity of every human being, created by God, which no one has the right to forget or disregard. This dignity is expressed especially in the fundamental right to freedom of religion, in its full meaning and integrity” [Welcoming ceremony, Guanajuato, 23 March].

Pope Benedict with President Felipe Calderon and first lady Margarita Zavala, upon his arrival Guanajuato.

Hope

“Confidence in God offers the certainty of meeting him, of receiving his grace; the believer’s hope is based on this. And, aware of this, we strive to transform the present structures and events which are less than satisfactory and seem immovable or insurmountable, while also helping those who do not see meaning or a future in life” [idem].

An instrument of good

“The disciple of Jesus does not respond to evil with evil, but is always an instrument of good instead, a herald of pardon, a bearer of happiness, a servant of unity. He wishes to write in each of your lives a story of friendship. Hold on to him, then, as the best of friends. He will never tire of speaking to those who always love and who do good. This you will hear, if you strive in each moment to be with him who will help you in more difficult situations” [Meeting with young people, Guanajuato, 24 March].

A new heart

“The history of Israel relates some great events and battles, but when faced with its more authentic existence, its decisive destiny, its salvation, it places its hope not in its own efforts, but in God who can create a new heart, not insensitive or proud. This should remind each one of us and our peoples that, when addressing the deeper dimension of personal and community life, human strategies will not suffice to save us. We must have recourse to the One who alone can give life in its fullness, because he is the essence of life and its author; he has made us sharers in the same through his Son Jesus Christ” [Homily at Expo Bicenternario Park, Léon, 25 March].

Devotion to Mary

“Dear brothers and sisters, do not forget that true devotion to the Virgin Mary always takes us to Jesus, and “consists neither in sterile nor transitory feelings, nor in an empty credulity, but proceeds from true faith, by which we are led to recognize the excellence of the Mother of God, and we are moved to filial love towards our Mother and to the imitation of her virtues” (Lumen Gentium, 67). To love her means being committed to listening to her Son, to venerate the Guadalupana means living in accordance with the words of the blessed fruit of her womb” [Angelus, Léon, 25 March].

Evil

“Human evil and ignorance simply cannot thwart the divine plan of salvation and redemption. Evil is simply incapable of that … There is no reason, then, to give in to the despotism of evil. Let us instead ask the risen Lord to manifest his power in our weakness and need” [Vespers, Léon, 25 March].

Photo credits:
[1] Reuters/Claudia Daut
[2] Reuters/Osservatore Romano
[3] Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images
[4] Hector Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images
[5] Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

New in the public eye: the pope's walking cane

Over recent months, Pope Benedict XVI has been taking increasingly been taking his advancing age in consideration. He will turn 85 in April, and since the introduction of the moveable platform he uses in St. Peter’s Basilica, more measures have been appearing to make it easier for the pope to go about his business. The visit to Mexico, which starts today, avoids the high altitude of Mexico City, opting instead for lower Léon. On Wednesday, the regular public audience was cancelled because of the preparations for the trip and, by word of Fr. Federico Lombardi, we have the assurances that, although the Holy Father is has healthy as ever, he is keeping a regular daily schedule without too much potentially harmful elements. He goes to bed early and rarely drinks a glass of wine.

This morning, we saw the first public appearance of the papal cane, which Pope Benedict used to walk to the plane that would fly him to Mexico. He has been using it in private for the last two months, sources say, simply because it makes him feel a bit more secure when walking.

Let’s keep our Holy Father in our prayers, that he may long remain healthy and able to perform his ministry as successor of St. Peter.

O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Benedict, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Photo credit: Reuters/Max Rossi

On Friday, Pope Benedict will be departing on his 24th apostolic journey, during which the total number of countries he has visited will rise to 23. It will be the first of as many as five journeys the almost 85-year-old pontiff may undertake over the course of this year*. The weeklong journey to  Mexico and Cuba will be the first time that the Holy Father visits these countries, and only his third visit to the New World.

The visit to Mexico and Cuba will start on Friday, with the papal plane expected to arrive in the afternoon at Guanajato International Airport, which will be the only official event of that day. The pope will remain in Guanajato and nearby Léon until Monday morning. Besides the regular courtesy visit to the president and the celebration of public Mass (on Saturday and Sunday respectively), the Holy Father will greet children on Saturday evening and celebrate Vespers with the bishops of Mexico and other parts of Latin America on Sunday.

On Monday morning, the papal plane will depart for Cuba, with a scheduled arrival at the international airport of Santiago de Cuba at 2pm. In that city, the pope will celebrate an early evening Mass to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the ‘Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre’, the patroness of Cuba, whose shrine he will visit on Tuesday morning, just before his departure for Cuba’s capital, Havana. There, the Holy Father with meet with the president and the council of ministers of Cuba, as well as the Cuban bishops later in the afternoon. A meeting with Fidel Castro is also said to be expected, depending on the latter’s health. On Wednesday, the last full day of the visit, Pope Benedict will be celebrating a public Mass, while the rest of the day is spent on preparation for the return home.

At a street stall in Léon, paper figurines of Pope Benedict XVI are displayed for sale

The visit to Cuba, especially, is rather politically charged, since the country is officially Communist. While the pope will be meeting with president and government, there is no planned meeting with dissidents scheduled, although the latter have been calling for it. But, as we have seen in previous papal journeys, there is always the possibility that time will be made for unscheduled events.

*Other apostolic journeys this year may be a visit to Ireland in June, although that seems highly unlikely; to Lebanon and possibly Syria in September (Lebanon is already confirmed, and a visit to Syria depends on the situation in that country); and to Monaco and the Ukraine.

Photo credit: Reuters/Mario Armas

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I am a Dutch Catholic from the north of the Netherlands. In this blog I wish to provide accurate information on current affairs in the Church and the relation with society. It is important for Catholics to have knowledge about their own faith and Church, especially since these are frequently misrepresented in many places. My blog has two directions, although I use only English in my writings: on the one hand, I want to inform Dutch faithful - hence the presence of a page with Dutch translations of texts which I consider interesting or important -, and on the other hand, I want to inform the wider world of what is going on in the Church in the Netherlands.

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