In the presence of royalty, a bishop says goodbye

Bishop van Luyn at the start of his final Mass as ordinary of Rotterdam.

In the presence of HRH Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima, hundreds of faithful, and dozens of priests and bishops, Bishop Adrianus van Luyn bade farewell to the diocese which he headed for more than 17 years. The retiring bishop did so with a Mass at the cathedral of Sts. Lawrence and Elisabeth in Rotterdam. The crown prince and his wife, who reside within the Diocese of Rotterdam, were not the only dignitaries present today. The Queen’s Commissioner for Zuid-Holland, Mr. Jan Franssen, mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, former Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers and Secretary for the Interior Piet Hein Donner were also in attendance – an indication of the connections that Bishop van Luyn made in this most urbanised of Dutch dioceses.

The emeritus bishop’s homily, katholieknederland.nl reports, extensively referred to papal encyclicals and his motto: Collabora Evangelio, which comes from the Second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy: “So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to our Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but share in my hardships for the sake of the gospel” (1:8). He also made mention several times of the witness of Rotterdam’s patron, Saint Lawrence.

I hope to be able to read and translate the homily for this blog, but I have as yet been unable to find it online.

After this official farewell, Bishop van Luyn literally leaves Rotterdam behind him. He will be relocating to a Salesian centre in Bonn, Germany, where he is to continue his work with young people, which played such a prominent part in his time in Rotterdam, especially the homeless. Msgr. van Luyn will stay on as president of COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, until the end of March 2012. Likewise, he will also remain chairman of the Dutch Bishop’s Conference until after the installation of his successor, Msgr. van den Hende, as bishop of Rotterdam, when the bishops will elect a new chairman.

With vicar general, Fr. Dick Verbakel, at his side, Bishop van Luyn shakes hands with HRH Princess Máxima. The crown prince at the far left.

Photo credit: Christian van der Heijden

Rome’s crazy weekend

The prayer card of Blessed John Paul II released by the Diocese of Roermond

Rome is facing a rather busy weekend, with some 1 million visitors expected (of whom a fair number are arriving today and tomorrow) for an event that has been unmatched since the funeral of Pope John Paul II. It is therefore quite fitting that this same venerable pope is the focus of this weekend’s happenings as well.

For the first time in more than 1,000 years, a pope is being beatified by his immediate successor. And it could have happened even sooner, had Pope Benedict XVI not decided to have the regular process followed. Cardinal Ruini, vicar general of Rome and president of the Italian bishops’ conference during the conclave that elected the current pope, has recently said that he received a petition at the time signed by a significant number of cardinals, that called for the immediate canonisation of Pope John Paul II. Rather a gesture made in the heat of the moment, I would say. Still, six years since the death of the future Blessed is a very short time to reach beatification. But it is happening nonetheless.

The Belgian king and queen (kneeling) amid other heads of state during the funeral of Pope John Paul II

The Vatican has published the calendar of the beatification, which will take place on Sunday 1 May. As during his funeral, the beatification of John Paul II will be attended by numerous dignitaries from across the globe. King Albert II and Queen, as well as the prime minister will represent Belgium, a similar representation as during the funeral of the late pope. The Netherlands are also repeating their attendance at the funeral, with the smallest possible delegation. Did the prime minister attend the funeral, now only the Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Piet Hein Donner, will be present. I guess that, when it comes to relations with religions, especially the Catholic Church, the state of the Netherlands still does not really understand how things work.

Sadly, this minimal representation is also copied by the Church in the Netherlands. Cardinal Simonis is the only Dutch bishop in Rome this weekend. Simonis, the former archbishop of Utrecht and host to Pope John Paul II during his visit to the Netherlands in 1985, was created a cardinal in that same year, by the same pope. The other Dutch bishops will be in The Hague to celebrate a solemn High Mass to mark the sixth anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict XVI. A lofty purpose, certainly, but it leaves the Dutch presence, and thus the sign of importance attached not only to the beatification, but also to the person of Pope John Paul II, absolutely tiny.

Luckily, with the Vatican blogmeet happening a day after the canonisation, the beatification will be well-covered by the social media. Catholic bloggers and social media entrepeneurs such as Father Roderick, Rocco Palmo and Thomas Peters are in Rome to cover the events. Follow them and some of the other bloggers in my blogroll. I’m sure they will all have much to say about the events of the weekend.

Photo credit: [1] Diocese of Roermond, [2] White House/Eric Draper