On the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated much of Haiti, especially the capital Port-au-Prince, the Catholic Church makes an effort to continue to assist the hundreds of thousands victims. Robert Cardinal Sarah of “Cor Unum” is in the country to coordinate continued practical aid, and today Pope Benedict XVI gives the people of Port-au-Prince a new spiritual shepherd.
The previous archbishop of the city, Msgr. Joseph Miot, died in the earthquake, but now his successor has been named. It is Msgr. Guire Poulard, until today the bishop of Les Cayes, also in Haiti. A year-long vacancy of a see is not out of the ordinary, although it’s not the rule either, but this appointment is undoubtedly timed to coincide with the anniversary of the earthquake and the death of Archbishop Miot. In the overwhelmingly Catholic country, it will boost morale for many, and hopefully Archbishop Poulard, cooperating with the Catholic charities, and the American bishops coordinating those, can give a renewed sense of purpose to the people and the aid they still barely receive.
The archbishop-elect is the tenth bishop of Port-au-Prince. He was ordained a priest for the archdiocese in 1972. In 1988 he was appointed as bishop of Jacmel and in 2009 of Les Cayes.
At the same time as Msgr. Poulard’s appointment, the administrator of the remains of the cathedral, Msgr. Glandas Toussaint, was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Port-au-Prince. His titular see will be Senez, a former diocese in France that dates back to the fifth century.
Ever so gently, the natural process changes the composition of the Curia in Rome. Yesterday, two cardinals retired for reasons of age. Both men, Cláudio Cardinal Hummes of the Congregation for Clergy, and Paul Josef Cardinal Cordes of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, are one year past the required retirement age of 75.
Their successors were announced on the very same day. Cardinal Hummes, in a relatively unusual move, is succeeded by the secretary of the congregation he headed for four years. Italian Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, 66, is now the prefect. He is generally seen is an intelligent, levelheaded and honest man. As prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy he will be responsible for the affairs concerning diocesan priests, as well as the legal aspects of running parishes. In February he wrote a letter to Archbishop Eijk of Utrecht, clarifying the latter’s right to regulate employment in his cathedral parish. Archbishop Piacenza again made an appearance in my blog with a letter to all the priests.
The Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, which is responsible for all charitable actions and initiatives that relate to the care of the needy, will now be headed by Archbishop Robert Sarah (65). Until now, the Guinean-born archbishop was secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.
Both archbishops, as heads of a congregation and a pontifical council, are very likely candidates for the red cardinal’s hat in an upcoming consistory. They’ll then join their predecessors who, not being 80 yet, can still vote in a conclave.
Msgr. Karel Kasteel is the most senior Dutch prelate in the Vatican and works as the secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and Dean of the Apostolic Chamber. Last week he given another job, loftily called postulator of the apostolic phase in the beatification processes of Alphons Ariëns and Dora Visser. Archbishop Wim Eijk had suggested Msgr. Kasteel for that role and the Holy See agreed.
I met Msgr. Kasteel once; a very jovial man and a storyteller.
In his new function, he will have to provide evidence that the would-be beatified people heroically displayed Christian virtues, and will have to provide evidence of any miracles achieved on their intercession.
The process for Father Alphons Ariëns started seriously in 2005, when the Archdiocese of Utrecht invited people to come forward with testimonies. Father Ariëns (1860-1928) was a priest of the archdiocese who fought for improved workers’ conditions in the textile mills of Twente, and also combatted alcohol abuse.
Dora, or Dorothea, Visser (1819-1876) was a mystic, partly paralysed from youth and suffered the stigmata since 1843. In 2005, a diocesan court judged that a man was cured in 1999 on her intercession. A vita documentata, an account of her life, is being collected to be sent on to Rome, when the final decision must be made.
The entire process of beatification is an intricate and interesting one, which sometimes can take decades. Let’s hope, at the very least for Msgr. Kasteel’s sake, that it won’t take as long in these two cases.
Big day tomorrow in Utrecht: the consecration of two new auxiliary bishops for the archdiocese. Msgr. Herman Woorts and Msgr. Ted Hoogenboom will be consecrated by Archbishop Eijk, Bishop Hans van den Hende and Bishop Johannes de Kok o.f.m. , emeritus auxiliary of Utrecht. I’ve been trying to figure it if the Mass is going to be broadcast anywhere online, but I’ve had no luck just yet.
The website of the archdiocese reports the attendance of all Dutch bishops, the nuntius, Cardinal Simonis and Msgr. Kareel Kasteel, secretary of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, and a number of foreign bishops. I expect one or more bishops from Belgium and perhaps from Germany (Bishop Felix Genn of Münster or Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of OsnaBrück, for example).
I’ll try to share some photos once they become available, because bishops aren’t consecrated every day, after all.