Road signs – how changing the teaching of the Church leads us nowhere

In Germany the Central Committee of German Catholics, the ZdK, has been calling for pastoral and doctrinal changes to the Catholic understanding of marriage and family. Earlier this week, it seemed as if the Conference of Dutch Religious, the KNR, was following suit.

Towards the end of April, the KNR, through its commission for women, was involved in the organisation of a symposium on relationships and family, with a special focus on divorce, homosexuality and migration, in the light of the Synod of Bishops’ assemblies about the same topic. The symposium’s closing statement, which appeared on the KNR website on the 20th of May, summarises the conclusions and outlines what the participants – some 70 priests, religious and laity in all – think the bishops should decide and promote at the upcoming general assembly. Some of their points, such as simplifying the process of nullification of marriages or increasing pastoral sensitivity towards the divorced – are already being investigated and developed in the Church. Others are rather problematic and clash with the Catholic understanding of marriage and family, and thus ultimately with the sacrament of marriage and the order of Creation as has been given to us by God.

The symposium suggest the following in addition to the non-problematic points I already mentioned. I have added my comments in [red].

  • More respect for the decisions and the conscience of remarried faithful. [There is  a difference between respecting decisions and conscience and allowing things. One can respect a decision and still point out the consequences. The reverse is also true: the person making a decision must be aware and respect the consequences of it. Of course, no one should be forcing anyone towards or away from a decision, but the Church does have a duty of honesty towards people. In the end, we are free people, free to make informed choices, but that is not the be-all and end-all.]
  • Finding a new word for “annulment” as many people do not want to deny the relationship that existed. [To me this sounds like a superficial nicety. Sure “annulment” is a legalistic term that does not sound nice, but the end of a marriage is not nice. It should be remembered that an annulment does not mark the end of a marriage, but the conclusion that there never was a sacramental marriage to begin with. Nothing is ended, since there was nothing to begin with. Is that denial of a relationship? Of course not. Everyone, and the couple involved certainly, will see that there most certainly was a relationship. We should not need to change words to realise that.]
  • Reconsidering doctrine and practice regarding divorce, using the Orthodox Churches as an example. [This is problematic in a way that I know little about, but Archbishop Cyril Vasil’, Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, explains in Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church that there is no single Orthodox understanding or praxis regarding these issues, in addition to other problems. Taking the Orthodox example may not be as straightforward or desirable as it seems.]
  • Marking the end of a marriage with some sort of ritual [This is vague enough to be hard to disagree with. What sort of ritual? Is it one of celebration or mourning? A ritual for people or for God? Is there even something to mark the ending of?]

Regarding homosexuality, the closing statement lists three points:

  • Considering the relationships of people of the same sex, who love each other and take care of each other, as equal to heterosexual relationships and respecting them as such. [This is a difficult one. A distinction must be made between people and relationships. People are always equal, with the same human diginity that God has given all of us. And this should be the basis of how we interact with each other. Relationships, a vague enough term to encompass everything from being neighbours, colleagues at work, up to and including marriage, are not equal. There may be similarities between homosexual and heterosexual relationships, but there are also differences. When we start to consider them as fully equal we disregard the differences, which are not inconsequential. Sure, we can respect the love and responsibility in all relationships (these are inherently good things), but at the same time we acknowledge a fullness that we are called to strive for as far as we can. When we say that all relationships are the same, we deny this, and thus deny God].
  • Re-assessing the anthropology of the Church on the basis of modern insights from psychology, biology and philosophy. [While the Church must always be open to what we learn of the world and humanity through science, this must never be a reason to close the door to revelation. God has taught us about ourselves, and continues to do so through Scripture, Tradition and the teaching authority of the Church. The Church must remain careful to not be swept away with the winds of time. The teaching, including that about sexuality, marriage and family, can not be subject to the whims of the times. Besides, discovering new facts about human nature and sexuality is not in itself reason to change doctrine and practice, but an invitation to work out how both are compatible and can be understood through each other. The Church does not teach primarily because she discovers things (although she does that too), but because she has been given a teaching.]
  • If so desired to bless unions other than the classical marriage between man and woman. [There are two things to consider here. First, there is the blessing itself: in order to bless something, the Church must be in favour of it, and consider it something that must benefit from the blessing in order to flourish. Same-sex relationships (or, if we keep to the language of the statement, any relationship one can think of – even including between adult and minors, people and their pets, with multiple spouses and so on) do not in themselves meet these criteria, regardless of the good they can manifest, such as love and care. Secondly, the Church blesses publicly, not in secret. Assuming a way was found to bless the love and care in a relationship, but not the relationship itself, the Church must take care to show that this is what it is doing. Today, there is a high risk that any such blessing is seen as a sacramental marriage, something which the Church cannot support].

This will sound like a whole bunch of negatives, and that is in itself problematic too. The message of the Church is not a negative one, but it is different to what comes to us in society. The whole of love, family, sexuality and everything connected to it, the Church teaches, is more than just the desires of individual people. That is what it begins with, of course, but it can become so much more. That is what God has called us to from the very beginning, and that is what the Church continues to uphold.

It is exceedingly important for the Church to look at how she presents this, which is why, I believe, Pope Francis called the Synod to begin with: not to change doctrine, but to revitalise the pastoral work of the Church in this field. In order to so, the Church must be honest and open, truthful and welcoming, even when her conversational partners are not. She must speak, but also listen, for the feelings, desires and questions of people are very real, and they deserve acknowledgement and answers.

By changing teachings, the Church shows she does not take herself seriously. So why should anyone else? Listening and acknowledging is not automatically the same as accepting, although society would often have us believe it is. Not agreeing is the same as disrespecting or opposing, we so often hear or read, sometimes bluntly, sometimes between the lines. Instead, we should always look to Jesus, who did not agree with the Pharisees, tax collectors and other sinners, but who nevertheless sat down and ate with them and listened to their stories. He took them seriously enough to listen and then correct them when necessary. And we know that that approach worked, far better than bluntly pointing fingers and calling someone a sinner.

We are people called to great things, to fully become ourselves in love. None of us is perfect, and we all have our particular challenges on the road towards the fullness in God. We are not called to sit down and give up, or to walk past those who have sat down (or worse, encourage them to sit down and give up), but to continue, to help those who struggle and can’t see where to go anymore. And to do that, we need clear signs along the road, not arrows towards side roads that lead nowhere.

“No conditions but one profession of faith” for full unity between Catholic and Orthodox Churches

“I believe that it is important to reaffirm respect for this principle as an essential condition, accepted by both, for the restoration of full communion, which does not signify the submission of one to the other, or assimilation. Rather, it means welcoming all the gifts that God has given to each, thus demonstrating to the entire world the great mystery of salvation accomplished by Christ the Lord through the Holy Spirit. I want to assure each one of you here that, to reach the desired goal of full unity, the Catholic Church does not intend to impose any conditions except that of the shared profession of faith.”

This passage from Pope Francis’ message to Patriarch Bartholomew I today struck me as a very happy and hopeful one. The Orthodox Churches are so close to us in faith, sacraments and apostolic succession that the most immediate hope for full unity, the goal of ecumenism, is with them. And they have much to give us: a sense of mysticism that we have sometimes lost, especially in the west; of sacramentality and new ways of considering the Divine and how we relate to God in our worship and daily life.

The principle that Pope Francis refers to at the start of passage regards Unitatis Redintegratio, the Vatican II Decree on Christian Unity, and specifically the 15th and 16th chapters thereof. The conclusion of Chapter 15 summarises the principle that is deemed so essential for full communion:

“The very rich liturgical and spiritual heritage of the Eastern Churches should be known, venerated, preserved and cherished by all. They must recognize that this is of supreme importance for the faithful preservation of the fullness of Christian tradition, and for bringing about reconciliation between Eastern and Western Christians.”

Chapter 16 adds to that the importance of the laws and customs of the Orthodox Churches:

“Far from being an obstacle to the Church’s unity, a certain diversity of customs and observances only adds to her splendor, and is of great help in carrying out her mission, as has already been stated. To remove, then, all shadow of doubt, this holy Council solemnly declares that the Churches of the East, while remembering the necessary unity of the whole Church, have the power to govern themselves according to the disciplines proper to them, since these are better suited to the character of their faithful, and more for the good of their souls.”

The liturgical and spiritual heritage of the Orthodox Churches, as well as their laws and customs are no obstacle for full unity. Indeed, they are essential for the further purpose of that unity: the fullness of Christian tradition, worship and evangelisation. The word of God will resound all the stronger.

francis bartholomew

Photo credit: CNS photo/Paul Haring

Enter the Synod members

synod of bishopsYesterday the Holy See published the list of participants in the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family. Of course, there are the usual suspects: the heads of the Roman Curia departments, the standing members of the Synod and the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences, with the latter being default participants in an Extraordinary General Synod, which this one is. Pope Francis has had a personal touch in the selection of several participants; noteable among those are Cardinal Kasper, to all appearances a theologian much appreciated by the Holy Father, but also the vast majority of cardinals he created in his first consistory of last February.

A breakdown per country also shows Pope Francis’ fairly strong focus on both the southern half of the globe and the Middle East. When looking at the members personally appointed by the Pope, as well as the lay and professional participants and auditors, we see that, while 35 participants come from Europe (19 of whom are based in Rome or other parts of Italy), 15 participants come from Asia (5 of them from the Middle East), 12 from Central and South America, 9 from Africa, 4 from Oceania and 4 from North America. Add to those the bishops’ conference presidents and not least the fact that two of the three President Delegates come from outside Europe, and you get a distinct non-western picture.

danneelsFrom a local point of view it is interesting to see that no less than four participants come from Belgium, while there is only a single one from the Netherlands and a mere two from Germany. Belgium sends Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard,which was expected as he is the president of the Belgian bishops’ conference, but also his predecessor, Cardinal Godfried Danneels (pictured), as well as Father George Henri Ruyssen of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. Additionaly, Metropolitan Athenagoras, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Belgium, attends as a “fraternal delegate”.

From the Netherlands comes the archbishop of Utrecht, Cardinal Wim Eijk, as the president of our bishops’ conference, and Germany sends Cardinal Reinhard Marx, not a stranger in Rome, and Berlin’s Professor Ute Eberl.

And of course the list has been criticised, not least today by Fr. Thomas Reese. His argument that the presence of heads of the Curia is a bad thing, and an indication that Pope Francis’ intentions of overhauling and streamlining the workings of the Curia is doomed to fail, is plainly ludicrous. He argues that the prefects and presidents of the Curia are merely staff members and not policy makers, and should therefore be merely attending, not speaking or voting in the Synod, which is an extreme oversimplification. By that reasoning the presidents of the bishops’ conferences should not be there as participants either. The members of the Roman Curia are the closest collaborators of the Pope. They meet with him on a weekly basis and he is generally kept up to date on whatever is going on in the various department. But the Pope is one man, so the prefects and presidents not only have the leeway to make their own decisions, that is also their mandate. They are also not random clerics appointed on a whim, but experienced in their own field of work. They are far more than staff. Their experience, knowledge and mandate are enough to give them not only the right and duty to attend the Synod, but also to contribute and decide. Cricitism like that of Fr. Reese seems mostly motivated by a deeply ingrained fear and mistrust of the Curia, which has created an artifical opposition between individual faithful and the institutional Church.

Anyway, the Synod is still a couple of weeks away. Let’s give it the chance it deserves and not let it die a quiet death once the delegates have returned home.

Below is the full list of participants, as published yesterday:

PRESIDENT

  • Pope Francis

GENERAL SECRETARY

  • Lorenzo Cardinal Baldiserri

PRESIDENT DELEGATES

  • André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, France
  • Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, Philippines
  • Raymunda Damasceno Cardinal Assis, Archbishop of Aparecida, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Brazil

RELATOR GENERAL

  • Péter Cardinal Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Hungary, President of the Concilium Conferentiarum Episcoporum Europae (CCEE).

SPECIAL SECRETARY

  • Archbishop Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy

PRESIDENT OF THE COMMISSION FOR THE MESSAGE

  • Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture

VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COMMISSION FOR THE MESSAGE

  • Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, Rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina

SYNOD FATHERS FROM THE ORIENTAL CHURCHES

  • Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts, President of the Synod of the Catholic Coptic Church
  • Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch of the Greek-Melkites, President of the Synod the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church
  • Patrirach Ignace Youssif III Younan, Patrirach of Antioch of the Syrians, President of the Syriac Catholic Church
  • Patriarch Béchara Boutros Cardinal Raï, Patrirach of Antioch of the Maronites, President of the Synod of the Maronite Church
  • Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, President of the Synod of the Chaldean Church
  • Patriarch Nersos Bedros XIX  Tarmouni, Patrirach of Cilicia of the Armenians, President of the Synod of the Armenian Catholic Church
  • Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, President of the Synod of the Ukrainian Catholic Church
  • Major Archbishop George Cardinal Alencherry, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, President of the Syro-Malabar Church
  • Major Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Cardinal Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum, President of the Synod of the Syro-Malankarese Church
  • Major Archbishop Lucian Cardinal Muresan, Major Archbishop of Făgăras şi Alba Iulia, President of the Synod of the Romanian Church
  • Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Abeba of the Ethiopics, President of the Council of the Ethiopian Church, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia and Eritrea
  • Archbishop William Charles Skurla, Archbishop of Pittsburgh of the Ruthenians, President of the Council of the Ruthenian Church in the United States of America
  • Archbishop Ján Babjak, Archbishop of Presov of the Slovaks, President of the Council of the Slovak Church

PRESIDENT OF THE BISHOPS’ CONFERENCES

  • Bishop Benoît Comlan Messan Alowonou, Bishop of Kpalimé, Togo
  • Bishop Oscar Omar Aparicio Céspedes, Military Ordinary of Bolivia
  • Archbishop José María Arancedo, Archbishop of Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz, Argentina
  • Bishop Anders Arborelius, Bishop of Stockholm, Sweden
  • Raymundo Damasceno Cardinal Assis, Archbishop of Aparecido, Brazil (see also above)
  • Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genova, Italy
  • Bishop Gervaise Banshimiyubusa, Bishop of Ngozi, Burundi
  • Bishop Michael Dixon Bhasera, Bishop of Masvingo, Zimbabwe
  • Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, Archbishop of Valladolid, Spain
  • Bishop Anthony Fallah Borwah, Bishop of Gbarnga, Liberia
  • Bishop Jean-Claude Bouchard, Bishop of Pala, Chad
  • Josip Cardinal Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb, Croatia
  • Archbishop Stephen Brislin, Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Bishop Markus Büchel, Bishop of Sankt Gallen, Switzerland
  • Archbishop Paul Bùi Van Doc, Archbishop of Thành-Phô Hô Chí Minh, Vietnam
  • Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, Archbishop of Tunja, Colombia
  • Archbishop Ignatius Chama, Archbishop of Kasama, Zambia
  • Archbishop Louis Chamniern Santisukniran, Archbishop of Thare and Nonseng, Thailand
  • Archbishop Joseph Coutts, Archbishop of Karachi, Pakistan
  • Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario, Archbishop of Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Archbishop John Atcherley Dew, Archbishop of Wellington, New Zealand
  • Bishop Nicolas Djomo Lola, Bishop of Tshumbe, Congo-Kinshasa
  • Bishop Basílio do Nascimento, Bishop of Baucau, Timor-Leste
  • Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, Archbishop of Gatineau, Canada
  • Willem Jacobus Cardinal Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Péter Cardinal Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary (see also above)
  • Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas, Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador
  • Ricardo Cardinal Ezzati Andrello, Archbishop of Santiago, Chile
  • Bishop Emmanuel Félémou, Bishop of Kankan, Guinea
  • Bishop Oscar Gerardo Fernández Guillén, Bishop of Puntarenas, Costa Rica
  • Archbishop Ruggero Franceschini, Archbishop of Izmir, Turkey
  • Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, Archbishop of Poznan, Poland
  • Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo García Ibáñez, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
  • Archbishop Zef Gashi, Archbishop of Bar, Montenegro
  • Bishop Catalino Claudio Giménez Medina, Bishop of Caacupé, Paraguay
  • Bishop Andrej Glavan, Bishop of Novo Mesto, Slovenia
  • Archbishop Roberto Octavio González Nieves, Archbishop of San Juan de Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico
  • Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, India
  • Archbishop Jan Graubner, Archbishop of Olomouc, Czech Republic
  • Bishop Mario Grech, Bishop of Gozo, Malta
  • Archbishop John Ha Tiong Hock, Archbishop of Kuching, Malaysia
  • Archbishop Denis James Hart, Archbishop of Melbourne, Australia
  • Bishop Eugène Cyrille Houndékon, Bishop of Abomey, Benin
  • Archbishop John Hung Shan-Chuan, Archbishop of Taipei, Taiwan
  • Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria
  • Bishop Peter Kang U-Il, Bishop of Cheju, South Korea
  • Archbishop Samuel Kleda, Archbishop of Douala, Cameroon
  • Bishop Franjo Komarica, Bishop of Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Archbisop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, Archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev, Belarus
  • Bishop Patrick Daniel Koroma, Bishop of Kenema, Sierra Leone
  • Archbishop Joseph Edward Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville, United States of America
  • Archbishop Vincent Landèl, Archbishop of Rabat, Morocco
  • Chibly Cardinal Langlois, Bishop of Les Cayes, Haiti
  • Bishop Mathieu Madega Lebouakehan, Bishop of Mouila, Gabon
  • Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium
  • Archbishop Gerard Tlali Lerotholi, Archbishop of Maseru, Lesotho
  • Bishop Felix Lian Khen Thang, Bishop of Kalay, Myanmar
  • Patriarch José Macário do Nascimento Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon, Portugal
  • Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi, Bishop of Tonga, Tonga
  • Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, Vicar Apostolic of Paksé, Laos
  • Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, Ireland
  • Reinhard Cardinal Marx, Archbishop of München und Freising, Germany
  • Archbishop Angelo Massafra, Archbishop of Shkodrë-Pult, Albania
  • Bishop Juan Matogo Oyana, Bishop of Bata, Equatorial Guinea
  • Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi, Arcbishop of Lubango, Angola
  • Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege, Bishop of Kabgayi, Rwanda
  • Archbishop Thomas Meram, Archbishop of Urmya, Iran
  • Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, Archbishop of Lviv, Ukraine
  • Bishop Lúcio Andrice Muandula, Bishop of Xai-Xai, Mozambique
  • Archbishop Liborius Ndumbukuti Nashenda, Archbishop of Windhoek, Namibia
  • Bishop Benjamin Ndiaye, Bishop of Kaolack, Senegal
  • Bishop Tarcisius J.M. Ngalalekumtwa, Bishop of Iringa, Tanzania
  • Vincent Gerard Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, United Kingdom
  • John Cardinal Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi, Kenya
  • Bishop Rimantas Norvila, Bishop of Vilkaviskis, Lithuania
  • Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, Central African Republic
  • Archbishop John Baptist Odama, Archbishop of Gulu, Uganda
  • Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada, Archbishop of Tokyo, Japan
  • Bishop Arnold Orowae, Bishop of Wabag, Papua New Guinea
  • Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu, Bishop of Konongo-Mampong, Ghana
  • Archbishop Paul Yembuado Ouédraogo, Archbishop of Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso
  • Archbishop Diego R. Padrón Sánchez, Archbishop of Cumaná, Venezuela
  • Bishop Franghískos Papamanólis, Bishop of Syros and Santorini, Greece
  • Albert Malcolm Ranjith Cardinal Patabendige Don, Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Bishop Gregorio Nicanor Peña Rodríguez, Bishop of Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia en Higüey, Dominican Republic
  • Archbishop Tomasz Peta, Archbishop of Mary Most Holy in Astana, Kazakhstan
  • Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, Archbishop of Mother of God at Moscow, Russia
  • Bishop Maurice Piat, Bishop of Port-Louis, Seychelles
  • Archbishop Patrick Christopher Pinder, Archbishop of Nassau, Bahamas
  • Archbishop Salvador Piñeiro García-Calderón, Archbishop of Ayacucho, Peru
  • Archbishop Georges Pontier, Archbishop of Marseille, France
  • Bishop Louis Portella Mbuyu, Bishop of Kinkala, Congo-Brazzaville
  • Bishop Christo Proykov, Apostolic Exarch of Sofia of the Bulgarians, Bulgaria
  • Francisco Cardinal Robles Ortega, Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico
  • Archbishop Ioan Robu, Archbishop of Bucharest, Romania
  • Óscar Andrés Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras
  • Bishop Sócrates René Sándigo Jirón, Bishop of Juigalpa, Nicaragua
  • Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Wien, Austria
  • Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Abeba of the Ethiopics, Ethiopia (see also above)
  • Archbishop Zbignev Stankevics, Archbishop of Riga, Latvia
  • Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, Archbishop of Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, Archbishop of Glasgow, United Kingdom
  • Bishop Jean-Baptiste Tiama, Bishop of Sikasso, Mali
  • Archbishop Alexis Touabli Youlo, Archbishop of Agboville, Côte d’Ivoire
  • Archbishop Fausto Gabriel Trávez Trávez, Archbishop of Quito, Ecuador
  • Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana, Archbishop of Taomasina, Madagascar
  • Patriarch Fouad Twal, Patriarch of Jerusalem
  • Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, Archbishop of Panamá, Panama
  • Bishop Rodolfo Valenzuela Núñez, Bishop of Vera Paz, Guatemala
  • Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, Philippines
  • Bishop Rodolfo Pedro Wirz Kraemer, Bishop of Maldonado-Punta del Este, Uruguay
  • Gabriel Cardinal Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum, Sudan
  • Bishop Joseph Mukasa Zuza, Bishop of Mzuzu, Malawi
  • Archbishop Stanislav Zvolenský, Archbishop of Bratislava, Slovakia

ELECTED BY THE UNION OF SUPERIORS GENERAL

  • Father Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, Superior General of the Society of Jesus
  • Father Mauro Jöhri, Minister General of the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor
  • Father Mario Alegani, Superior General of the Congregation of Saint Joseph

HEADS OF THE DEPARTMENTS OF THE ROMAN CURIA

  • Pietro Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State
  • Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • Leonardo Cardinal Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
  • Angelo Cardinal Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
  • Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
  • Fernando Cardinal Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples
  • Beniamino Cardinal Stella, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy
  • João Cardinal Bráz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  • Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education
  • Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, Major Penitentiary
  • Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
  • Stanislaw Cardinal Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
  • Kurt Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  • Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family
  • Peter Kodwo Appiah Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
  • Robert Cardinal Sarah, President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”
  • Antonio Maria Cardinal Vegliò, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
  • Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers
  • Francesco Cardinal Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
  • Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
  • Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture (see also above)
  • Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications
  • Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation
  • Domenico Cardinal Calcagno, President of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Versaldi, President of the Prefecture of the Economic Affairs of the Holy See

MEMBERS OF THE ORDINARY COUNCIL

  • Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, United States of America
  • Péter Cardinal Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary (see also above)
  • Archbishop Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy (see also above)
  • Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, India (see also above)
  • Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa, Congo-Kinshasa
  • Wilfrid Fox Cardinal Napier, Archbishop of Durban, South Africa
  • George Cardinal Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy
  • Odilo Pedro Cardinal Scherer, Archbishop of São Paulo, Brazil
  • Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Wien, Austria (see above)
  • Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, Ukraine (see also above)
  • Bishop Santiago Jaime Silva Retamalas, Auxiliary Bishop of Valparaíso, Chile, Secretary General of the Episcopal Council of Latin America (CELAM)
  • Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, Philippines (see also above)
  • Donald William Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, United States of America
  • Peter Kodwo Appiah Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (see also above)
  • Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation (see also above)

MEMBERS APPOINTED BY THE POPE

  • Angelo Cardinal Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals
  • Godfried Cardinal Danneels, Archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium
  • Walter Cardinal Kasper, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  • Angelo Cardinal Scola, Archbishop of Milan, Italy
  • Carlo Cardinal Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy
  • Lluís Cardinal Martínez Sistach, Archbishop of Barcelona, Spain
  • André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, France (see also above)
  • Jonh Cardinal Tong Hon, Bishop of Hong Kong, China
  • Orani João Cardinal Tempesta, Archbishop of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Adrew Cardinal Yeom Soo-jung, Archbishop of Seoul, South Korea
  • Philippe Nakellentuba Cardinal Ouédraogo, Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
  • Fernando Cardinal Sebastián Aguilar, Archbishop emeritus of Pamplona y Tudela, Spain
  • Elio Cardinal Sgreccia, President emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Bertello, President of the Governorate of the Vatican City State
  • Archbishop Giovanni Tonucci, Archbishop of Loreto, Italy
  • Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli, Archbishop Anciona-Osimo, Italy
  • Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop of Tlalnepatla, Mexico, President of the Episcopal Council of Latin America (CELAM)
  • Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto, Archbishop of Delhi, India
  • Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, Rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina (see also above)
  • Bishop Alonso Gerardo Garza Treviño, Bishop of Piedras Negras, Mexico
  • Bishop Edgard Amine Madi, Bishop of Nossa Senhora do Líbano em São Paulo of the Maronites, Brazil
  • Bishop Enrico Solmi, Bishop of Parma, Italy, President of the Commission for Life and Family in the Italian Bishops’ Conference
  • Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, Dean of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota
  • Father Francois-Xavier Dumortier, Rector Magnificus of the Pontifical University Gregoriana
  • Father Antonio Spadaro, Editor of the magazine “La Civiltà Cattolica”
  • Father Manuel Jesús Arroba Conde, Professor of Canon Law at the Pontifical Lateran University

UNDERSECRETARY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS

  • Bishop Fabio Fabene

LIST OF OTHER PARTICIPANTS ACCORDING TO THEIR TITLES

  • Fr. Tony Anatrella, psycho-analist. Specialist in social psychiatry. Consultor to the Pontifical Councils for the Family and for Health Care Workers. France.
  • Fr. Gérard Berliet, professor of Sacred Scripture at the provincial seminary in Lyon. Head of pastoral care for divorced and remarried faithful in the Archdiocese of Lyon, France.
  • Fr. Bruno Esposito, professor of Canon Law at the Pontifical University St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome.
  • Fr. Alfonso Fernández Benito, professor of Moral Theology and the Sacrament of Marriage at the Hugher Institute of Theological Studies “San Ildefonso”, director of the Institute for Religious Sciences Santa Maria di Toledo, Spain.
  • Fr. Arul Raj Gali, National Director of “Holy Cross Family Ministries in India”.
  • Dr. Jeffrey Goh, professor of Systematic Theology at the archdiocesan seminary and judge of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Kuching, Malaysia.
  • Fr. Maurizio Gronchi, professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical University Urbaniana in Rome, consultor for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
  • Dr. Rodrigo Guerra López, general director of the Centre for Advanced Social Research, Mexico.
  • Dr. Jocelyne Khoueiry, member of the Episcopal Commission for the Family of the APECL, Lebanon.
  • Dr. Helen Kyung Soo Kwon, member of the executive committee of the “Helen Kim Scholarship Foundation at Ewha Womans University”, South Korea.
  • Fr. Sabatino Majorano, professor of Systemic Moral Theology at the Alphonsianum, Italy.
  • Mr. Christopher Laurence Meney, director of the Center for life, marriage and family of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia.
  • Professor Giuseppina de Simone, extraordinary professor of philosophy at the Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in Naples. Married to ∨
  • Professor Francesco Miano, professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, president of Catholic Action, Italy. Married to ^
  • Professor Carmen Peña García, director of Especialista en Causas Matrimoniales, professor at the Faculty of Canon Law of the Comillas Pontifical University, Defender of the Bond and Promotor of Justice at the Metropolitan Court of Madrid, Spain.
  • Fr. George Henri Ruyssen, professor at the Faculty of Oriental Canon Law of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. Belgium.

AUDITORS

  •  Mr. Arturo and Mrs. Hermelinda As Zamberline, officials of the ‘Equipe Notre Dame” in Brazil.
  • Mr. Riyadh Albeer Naoom Azzo and Mrs. Sanaa Namir Ibrahim Habeeb, witnessing of Christian family life in a Muslim environment, Iraq.
  • Mr. León Botolo and Mrs. Marie Valentine Kisanga Sosawe, founders of Communauté Famille Chrétienne, Congo-Kinshasa.
  • Professor Zelmira María Bottini de Rey, director of the Institute for Couples and Family of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, president of the Latin-America Network of the Institute of the Family of the Catholic Universities, Argentina.
  • Mr. George Campos, director of Couples for Christ, Philippines. Married to ∨
  • Mrs. Cynthia Campos, member of Couples for Christ, Philippines. Married to ^
  • Mr. Inácio Amândio Chaúque, educator of young couples, Mozambique.
  • Mrs. Joan Clements, director of the executive committe of the World Organisation Ovulation Method Billings (WOOMB), Australia.
  • Mr. Stephen and Mrs. Sandra Conway, regional officers for Africa of Retrouvailles, South Africa.
  • Dr. Ute Eberl, responsible for pastoral care for marriage and family in the Archdiocese of Berlin, Germany.
  • Mrs. Pilar Escudero de Jensen, member of the vicariate general of the Archdiocese of Santiago, Chile, member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, member of the Family Institute of Schönstatt, Chile. Married to ∨
  • Mr. Luis Jensen Acuña, member of the Bioethics Centre of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, member of the Family Institute of Schönstatt, Chile. Married to ^
  • Dr. Jean Dieudonné Gatsinga and Mrs. Emerthe Gatsinga Tumuhayimpundu, repsonsible for young families of the Focolare movement in Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda.
  • Mr. Jeffrey Heinzen, director of Natural Family Planing of the Diocese of La Crosse, United States of America. Married to ∨
  • Mrs. Alice Heinzen, member of the Natural Family Planning Advisory Board of the Diocese of La Crosse, United States of America. Married to ^
  • Dr. Ilva Myriam Hoyos Castañeda, prosecutor delegate for the defense of the rights of children, youth and family, Colombia.
  • Mr. Sélim and Mrs. Rita Khoury, leading the Office for Pastoral Care for Families of the Patriarchal Curia of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon.
  • Mrs. María Lacalle Noriega, director of the Centre of the Study of the family (Inst. Investigaciones económicas y sociales Francisco de Vitoria), secretary general of the Sociedad Española de bioética y biojurídica, Spain.
  • Fr. Cajetan Menezes, director of the Family Apostolate in Bombay, India.
  • Mr. Giuseppe Petracca Ciavarella and Mrs. Lucia Miglionico, medical doctors, members of the National Council for Pastoral Care of Families, Italy.
  • Sister Margaret Muldoon, Superior General of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux, Ireland.
  • Mr. Francisco Padilla, officer of the Couples for Christ Foundation for family and life movement, Philippines.
  • Mr. Algirdas Petronis, vice president of the International Federation of Catholic Families, director of the Centre for the Family of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, Lithuania.
  • Mr. Romano and Mrs. Mavis Pirola, directors of the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council.
  • Mr Olivier and Mrs. Xristilla Roussy, responsible for the apostolic branch of Amour et Vérité, France.
  • Mr. Steve and Mrs. Claudia Schultz, members of the International Catholic Engaged Encounter, United States of America.
  • Mrs. Michèle Taupin, preident of the movement Espérance et Vie, France.
  • Mrs. Jeannette Touré, National president of the Association of Catholic Women in Côte d’Ivoire.

FRATERNAL DELEGATES

  •  Archbishop Athenagoras, Metropolitan of Belgium. Ecumenic patriarchate.
  • Archbishop Hilarion, President of Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow.
  • Metropolitan Bishoy, Metropolitan of Damietta, Kafr Elsheikh and Elbarari, Egypt. Coptic Orthodox Church.
  • Mar Yostinos, Archbishop of Zhale and Bekau, Lebanon. Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.
  • Bishop Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, England. Anglican Communion.
  • Dr. Ndanganeni Petrus Phaswaha, Bishop-President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa. World Lutheran Federation.
  • Dr. Benebo Fubara-Manuel, President of the Nigeria Communion of Reformed Churches. World Communion of Reformed Churches.
  • Dr. Valérie Duval-Poujol, professor of Biblical Exegesis at the Catholic Institute of Paris, France. World Baptist Alliance.

A place in Rome – the new cardinals and their title churches

collegeofcardinalsThree weeks before the first Francis-style consistory, a look at exactly what titles the new cardinals may be receiving. As always, it’s a guessing game, but an interesting one, which sheds a light on how the cardinals of the world Church are a part of the local Church of Rome, symbolising their unity with the See of Peter.

There will be 19 new cardinals, and only four of these will be Cardinal-Deacons, as they work in the Roman Curia. They are Cardinals-designate Pietro Parolin, Lorenzo Baldisseri, Gerhard Müller and Beniamino Stella. These four can be granted one of nine available Cardinal Deaconries (that is assuming Pope Francis won’t elevate any new ones, as he is free to do, even when there are existing deaconries vacant). They are:

  • Sant’Agnese in Agone
  • Sant’Anselmo all’Aventino
  • Sant’Antonio di Padova a Circonvallazione Appia
  • San Giovanni Battista Decollato
  • Santa Maria della Scalia
  • Santa Maria in Cosmedin
  • San Teodoro
  • Santi Cosma e Damiano
  • Santissimi Nomi di Gesù e Maria in Via Lata

Santa_maria_in_cosmedin2Most of these deaconries fell vacant only recently, with the exception of San Teodoro (since 2000), San Giovanni Battista Decollato (since 1988) and Santa Maria in Cosmedin (since 1967) (pictured). Assigning these three would be high time, then. San Teodoro, however, is used by the Greek Orthodox community in Rome, after Pope John Paul II granted them its use in 2000. Keeping this deaconry vacant would be a sign of good will that Pope Francis may well want to to extend.

The 15 other cardinals-designate will be Cardinal-Priests as they are ordinaries of dioceses, although three of them are retired. There are, however, only 13 Cardinal Titles available, so Pope Francis will either create some new ones, or (temporarily) elevate a few Cardinal-Deaconries to Titles. Below is the list:

  • Santa Cecilia
  • San Crisogono
  • Sant’Emerenziana a Tor Fiorenza
  • San Gioacchino ai Prati di Castello
  • San Giuseppe all’Aurelio
  • Sante Maria della Salute a Primavalle
  • Santa Maria in Trastevere
  • Santa Maria Madre della Provvidenza a Monte Verde
  • Santa Maria “Regina Mundi” a Torre Spaccata
  • Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino
  • San Roberto Bellarmino
  • Santissimo Redentore a Valmelaina
  • Santissimo Redentore e Sant’Alfonso in Via Merulana

San Roberto BellarminoFirst of all, this list contains Pope Francis’ own Cardinal Title of San Roberto Bellarmino (pictured), which he held until his election to the papacy. Maybe he’ll choose to keep to the pattern of that title being held by South American prelates, and he could even grant it to his own successor in Buenos Aires, Mario Poli. All these titles fell vacant in the past four years, so none is really in need of being filled immediately (if titles can ever be, of course). San Crisogono and Santa Maria in Trastevere are two of the oldest titles, dating back to the second century.

Originally the churches of the priests of Rome, and later those of the priests and deacons of Rome, and the bishops of the surrounding dioceses, who could elect the Pope, Cardinal Titles and Cardinal Deaconries today are largely ceremonial. The cardinals play no role in the daily affairs of their churches, although their coats of arms and names are usually present in the church somewhere. Some cardinals may even support their church financially or offer Mass in them when in Rome. Symbolically, the cardinals are a part of the Church’s foundation around Saint Peter in Rome, working with his successor in leading the Church.

One day before turning 80, Cardinal Meisner tells it like it is

Cardeal-Joachim-MeisnerOne day before his 80th birthday, and his retirement from Curial functions that comes with it, Cardinal Joachim Meisner makes some bold and critical statements in an interview for Deutschlandfunk. The archbishop of Cologne is known to be in disagreement with most other German bishops about if, when and how divorced and remarried Catholics can be allowed to receive the sacraments. In that respect he is very much in agreement with Archbishop Gerhard Müller, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

He also speaks about being critical of Pope Francis, in a personal conversation no less. He says:

“During my last visit to Pope Francis I was able to speak very freely with the Holy Father about all kinds of topics. And I also told him that his proclamation in the form of interviews and short statements leaves many questions unanswered, questions which should be explained further for the uninformed. The Pope looked at me with surprise and asked me to please give him an example. And my reply was that, in his return from Rio to Rome, on the airplane, he was asked about the question of divorced and remarried people. And as the Pope said, divorced people can receive Holy Communion, remarried divorced people can not. In the Orthodox Church it is possible to marry twice. That was his statement. And then he spoke of mercy, which in my experience, which is what I told him, is only understood in this country as a substitute for all human failings. And the Pope very energetically replied that he is a son of the Catholic Church and is not saying anything but the teachings of the Church. And mercy must be identical to truth, or it doesn’t deserve the name mercy. And in addition, he emphasised that when theological questions remain, then there is the important Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to formulate and explain the details. And you must always remember that this Congregation, which before the Council was chaired by the Pope himself, is still the first in the Curial order. And you can’t relate to the Prefect as a private person, just because he was once a member of the Bishops’ Conference.”

This is pretty unheard of, that a cardinal so freely discusses his disagreements with the Pope. Pope Francis’ reaction is no less interesting, of course. It shows how he wants the Curia, with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the lead, to function. Not as a behemoth controlled by the Pope, but as a body assisting the Pope in his ministry. And I think that also shows us how we should all act as Catholics. We should be willing and able to explain and clarify in love, to proclaim, not just by speaking about Jesus Christ, but also by knowing and living our faith, even in the face of misunderstanding and adversity.

Cardinal Meisner was also asked about demands from certain groups that the Church should adapt to the times. Such sentiments were heard anew in the wake of the Synod of Bishops’ questionnaire. Although this was never intended as a means to ask the faithful for their opinions on Church teaching, many have used it as a chance to express theirs nonetheless.

“The Church must conform to the Word of God and not to the opinion of people. As Church we must know the opinions of people, to be able to proclaim the Word of God accordingly. But conforming, as they are asking, is not a part of the Gospel. It is amazing that the Evangelical Church has defined, with her position paper on questions of sexuality, a total alignment to the so-called spirit of the times. And what does the state of the Evangelical Church look like? As I understand, the number of people leaving it are even higher than ours. That can’t, ultimately, be because of the question of sexuality.”

Isn’t the cardinal afraid to stand alone, to become isolated, because what he says is not in accordance with what others are saying?

“I am not afraid to stand alone. During my school days in Thuringia I was the only Catholic boy, pupil. And I was always a part of everything and never allowed myself to be isolated. The mission of the ZdK (Central Committee of German Catholics) is to make the Gospel visible and have effect in the secular dimension, as it’s called, in the world. And here this group must seriously ask itself if they have remained true to their mission and vocation? You are asking if, in this context, I have no fear of being isolated? I have real concern for those people who bend their faith to themselves and who make their own faith, and who do not accept in awe what Christ Himself has entrusted to us. There is no solution there.”

The General Report for the Ad Limina – The portfolios

Continuing with our translation of the general report that the Dutch bishops will be handing to Pope Francis in the first week of December, we arrive at the second part, in which the various portfolios within the Bishops’ Conference are described, as well as some developments within the fields they cover.

It would seem that each portfolio holder has written a short text. These are sadly not written for easy reading. They are dry texts intended to convey information, and their length prevents the inclusion of much detail.

Below, I will briefly list the main points in each text.

logo TSTVocations and Education to Church Ministry (Wim Cardinal Eijk): Mentions the intended merger between the three Catholic theological faculties in the country. The Faculty of Catholic Theology (logo pictured) of the University of Tilburg, but located in Utrecht, was the result. Two faculties participated, while the third lost the right to dispense ecclesiastical grades. No mention is made of the seminaries.

Liturgy, Church Music, Bible and Christian Art (Bishop Jan Liesen): This department tries to emphasise the fullness of liturgical life through letters and liturgical books. There is special attention for new translations of the Roman Missal and the Bible as used in the liturgy.

Catechesis (Bishop Rob Mutsaerts): There are projects about First Communion and Confirmation,  a series of six catechetical magazines on topics like birth, suffering, forgiveness and education, a catechesis method for children and teenagers. New goals are new forms of evangelisation and catechesis and more investing in the volunteer force.

basisschoolEducation (Bishop Jan Hendriks): Government policy and secularisation put pressure on Catholic education. Ways are sought to improve relations between Church and schools and increase religious knowledge of teachers.

Youth (Bishop Rob Mutsaerts): Pastoral care is mostly presented in national events (Catholic Youth Day, diocesan events). The number of youth groups is slowly decreasing, but young Catholics are increasingly present on the Internet and in social media.

Communication and Media (Bishop Frans Wiertz): Little interest from secular media in Church and faith, except for the sexual abuse crisis and the election of Pope Francis. Fewer financial means to invest in communication. There seem to be new chances in new media (seriously? Seem to be?)

prisonPastoral care in Justice and Health Care (Bishop Everard de Jong): Pastoral care in prisons takes place in close cooperation with the state. Most hospitals and nursing homes are secularised, making providing pastoral care more difficult. It is being ‘professionalised’ and thus becoming more secular. There are very few priests available in this area, and the challenge is to strengthen the bonds between caregivers and dioceses, and dioceses and institutions.

Church and Society (Bishop Gerard de Korte): The bishop meets twice annually with representatives from various areas of society, including political parties and unions. The bishop tries to spread Catholic social thought via the media.

Ecumenism and Contacts with the Eastern Rites (Bishop Hans van den Hende): There are direct ecumenical contacts with the Protestant Church, the Old Catholic Church, the Oriental and Orthodox Churches, the Evangelical Alliance and the Pentecostal churches. Expressions of ecumenism include a joint declaration on Baptism and a nationwide Week of Prayer for Unity.

Interreligious Dialogue (Bishop Jan van Burgsteden): Cooperation exists with Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. Deus Caritas Est and the Vatican II documents are basis for further contacts.

punt ethiopiëMission and Development (Bishop Jos Punt): There is solidarity and creativity in the parishes, often aimed at local projects. These can be integrated in national actions. There is also a decline in financial contributions to missionary projects. (At left: Bishop Punt on a missionary visit to Ethiopia)

Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) (Bishop Theodorus Hoogenboom): The bishop participates in the two meetings per year of the COMECE, and subsequently reports to the bishops’ conference about it. Several COMECE projects are put into practice in the Netherlands.

Marriage and Family (Bishop Antoon Hurkmans): Good marriage preparation and family amenities are promoted for the new parishes. Numerous movements assist the Church in these goals.

Handboek-katholieke-medische-ethiekMedical Ethics (Wim Cardinal Eijk): The cardinal lectures on this topic in the Netherlands and abroad, and also teaches the subject at the seminary of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, and writes articles for various publications. He also maintains political contacts to emphasise the topic, and has published a handbook on medical ethics (pictured), which is currently being translated into English and Italian.

Relations with Judaism (Bishop Herman Woorts): Several meetings between Jewish and Christian communities take place, in relation to the remembrance of the Holocaust and several Jewish feasts. All dioceses should have their own working group for relations with Judaism.

Movements and New Communities (Bishop Jan van Burgsteden): These are fourteen movements and communities recognised by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Religious and Secular Institutes (Bishop Jan van Burgsteden): Three to four meetings per year have led to mutual dialogue and confidence and has brought bishops and religious closer together.

Church and the Elderly (Bishop Gerard de Korte): Two elements are important: representation and comfort on the one hand, and questions of life and death, the younger generations and hope on the other. This is achieved through celebrations and speaking engagements.

Church and Women (Bishop Gerard de Korte): Consisting mainly of contacts with the Union of Dutch Catholic Women, in two meetings per year.

Our Lady of Lourdes BasilicaPilgrimages (Bishop Herman Woorts): The bishop takes part in the annual meeting of the three official pilgrimage organisations. Important now is the creation of a new pilgrims’ book related to the publication of an interrim Missal, probably sometime in 2014. The bishop takes part in various pilgrimages and celebrations.

Pastoral Care for Workers in Carnivals, Circuses and Shipping (Bishop Antoon Hurkmans): There is a well-ordered nationwide parish for shipping workers, with its own parish priest and group of volunteers. There is an annual meeting with the bishop.

Beatifications and Canonisations (Bishop Frans Wiertz): There have been four canonisations and three beatifications in the Dutch Church province since 1998. There are three Blesseds awaiting canonisation.  There are 13 further cases, of which three have reached the stage of Venerable. Three cases have had their file sent to Rome, and two files have been handed over to dioceses abroad. Three or four more candidates are being considered to have their processes started.

The reports are very factual and while the describe intentions, plans and wishes, there is no indication of how these are to be realised, nor how effective any projects are.

Striking – and disappointing – is the conclusion from Bishop Wiertz as holder of the communications portfolio that “here seem to be new chances in new media”. These chances have been there for years, and many Catholics in the world are exploiting them. There is a world to be won on the Internet for the Church in the Netherlands, a world that is barely being explored at this time.

Cardinal watch: Cardinal Kasper turns 80

kasperWhereas a cardinal’s 80th birthday usually represent a pretty definite point beyond which he can no longer vote in a conclave, this is not so for Walter Cardinal Kasper. His 80th birthday, yesterday, fell in the sede vacante, and that means that he can still vote in the upcoming conclave. Only cardinals who mark their 80th before the See of Peter falls vacant lose that right.

Born in the heart of southern Germany, Walter Kasper became a priest of the Diocese of Rottenburg in 1957. He started his priestly ministry as a parish priest in Stuttgart, but soon returned to studying. In 1958 he earned a doctorate in dogmatic theology at the University of Tübbingen, where he also became a faculty member until 1961. Among other things, he was an assistant to Hans Küng. His academic career soon took flight, and included  a teaching post in dogmatic theology in Münster and the job of dean of the theological faculty both there and in Tübbingen. In 1983, Father Kasper was a visiting professor at the Catholic University of America.

In 1989, returned to his native diocese, which by that time had been renamed as Rottenburg-Stuttgart, and he did as bishop. He would helm that diocese for ten years, and in 1994 he became co-chair of the International Commission for Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue, an appointment paving the way for his future.

Bishop Kasper was called to Rome in 1999 to become the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He became an archbishop then and in 2001 he was created a cardinal, with Ognissanti in Via Appia Nuova as his deanery. Today that church is his title church, as he was elevated to the ranks of the cardinal-priests in 2011. Upon his creation, Cardinal Kasper took over the presidency of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In 2010, Cardinal Kasper laid down his duties as president and retired, although he remained a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura until the sede vacante began last week.

Over the years, Cardinal Kasper has been one of the more visible curial cardinals, not least because of his critical approach to certain events and development, both within and without the Church. In 1993 he was one of the bishops who signed a letter allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments. He also criticised the 2000 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus, claiming it was offensive to the Jews. In both cases, he was in an opposite position to Cardinal Ratzinger. On the other hand, his role in ecumenism also led to criticism from the more conservative wings of the Church. His ecumenical efforts were mainly aimed at the Orthodox Churches, and he led multiple Catholic delegations eastward. He also worked much towards mutual understanding between Catholic and Jews.

Most recently, he frankly spoke of miscommunications and mismanagement within the Curia, concerning the lifting of the excommunication of four St. Pius X Society bishops. Leading up to the papal visit to the United Kingdom in 2010, Cardinal Kasper perhaps too frankly about the secularism in that country, and in the end did not join the Pope on his visit.

With Cardinal Kasper’s 80th birthday the number of electors remains at 117. Only after the conclave does he become a non-elector.