After a new cardinal, now a new Nuncio for Belgium

After some uncertainty about the retirement of the previous one, Pope Francis today appointed a new Apostolic Nuncio to Belgium. The new ambassador of the Holy See to the Kingdom of Belgium, and representative of Rome to the Catholic Church in Belgium is an experienced diplomat who has served as a Nuncio since 1998.

augustine%20kasujja_0Archbishop Augustine Kasujja hails from Uganda, where he was born in 1946. In 1973 he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Kampala, and he entered the Holy See diplomatic service in 1979. He served in various countries, including Argentina, Haïti, Portugal, Peru and Algeria. In 1998 he was appointed as Apostolic Nuncio to Algeria and Tunisia, and with that he was consecrated as archbishop of the titular see of Cesarea in Numidia. In April of 2004 he was transferred to Madagascar and the Seychelles as Nuncio, combined with the office of Apostolic Delegate to the Comoros. In June of that same year he also became the Nuncio to Mauritius. In 2010 he was appointed to Nigeria, where he served until his appointment today. It is assumed that Archbishop Kasujja will arrive in Belgium in the course of November.

Now 70, it makes sense to assume that the archbishop will complete the five years until his retirement in Belgium. As Nuncios play an important role in the appointment of bishops (they provide detailed reports on the three candidates selected by the cathedral chapter of the diocese in question and pass that on, together with their own advice, to the Congregation for Bishops, which then passes it on the Pope. The Pope can then use the report and advice to make his choice), it is perhaps interesting to see for which bishops Archihsop Kasujja will help pick a successor.

  • His retirement already submitted, Ghent’s Bishop Luc van Looy will probably see it accepted within the coming year. Archbishop Kasujja will probably have inherited the file on Ghent from his predecessor, Archbishop Giacinto Berloco. [EDIT: On 13 October, it was revealed that Pope Francis asked Bishop Van Looy to remain in office for two more years, until the end of 2018].
  • In July of 2018, Bishop Remy Vancottem of Namur will reach the age of 75. The erstwhile auxiliary bishop of Mechelen-Brussels succeeded the now retired Archbishop Léonard in the latter’s home diocese in 2010.
  • Archbishop Kasujja will possibly also start the groundwork for the appointment of the successor of Archbishop Jozef De Kesel in Brussels. The cardinal-elect will reach the age of 75 in June of 2022, well over a year after the Nuncio, but considering the importance of the archbishop of Brussels, not least now that he is once again a cardinal, the process may well have begun at that time.
  • In that same year, but four months earlier, Bishop Jean-Luc Hudsyn, one of Mechelen-Brussels’ auxiliary bishops, will also submit his resignation. But as auxiliary bishops are not archbishops, the preparation for the selection of new one (of there is even going to be one) need not take as long.

Archbishop Kasujja’s appointments is noticeable in that he is not only the first non-European Nuncio to Belgium, but also the only African Nuncio in Europe at this time.

The Apostolic Nuncio to Belgium has also been the Apostolic Nuncio to Luxembourg since 1916, when the first papal representative was sent to the grand duchy. Archbishop Kasujja will therefore soon also be appointed to that smallest of the Benelux countries.

The Apostolic Nunciature to Belgium in its current form dates back to 1843, although there have been interruptions in the presence of Nuncios (there were none from 1846 to 1866, 1868 to 1875, 1880 to 1896 and 1911 to 1916). Archbishop Kasujja is the 21st Apostolic Nuncio to Belgium, and the most notable of his predecessor is the first in that list, who served from 1843 to 1846: at the time Archbishop Vincenzo Gioacchino Pecci, he became Pope Leo XIII in 1878. Fourteen of the previous Nuncios to Belgium later became cardinals.

Photo credit: NTV

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Pope facts

pope francisAs the enthusiasm, even in the secular media, for Pope Francis hasn’t much waned since his election, here are some interesting facts about the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church.

First of all there is his choice of name. No other Pope before him was called Francis. The last time a Pope chose a name that had not been used before was in 1978, when Pope John Paul I was elected, although he chose a combination of two existing names. For a fully new name, we have to go back to 913, when Pope Lando started his reign of less than a year. Unlike John Paul I, Pope Francis does not have a “I” after his name, since there is no other Pope Francis in past or present to confuse him with. John Paul I did add the “I” to indicate that he was neither John XIV or Paul VII.

Pope Francis is also the first Pope from the Jesuit order. The last Pope to come from a religious order was Leo XIII in 1878. He was a Secular Franciscan. The last Pope to have made public religious vows was Gregory XVI in 1831, who was a Camaldolese monk.

Pope Francis’ age is only slightly noteworthy. At 76, he is two years younger than Benedict XVI was at his election. In fact, he is the second-oldest Pope since Blessed John XXIII, who was some 7 months older at his election. In general, Popes have rarely been in their 70s when elected. The aforementioned John XXIII, Benedict XVI and Francis are among them, but the next one we encounter if we go back in history is Pope Clement XII, who was 78 when he was elected in 1730.

As has been widely reported, Pope Francis is the first Pope to hail from the New World. None before him have come, as he himself put it in his first public words after his election, “from the ends of the earth”. The last Pope from outside Europe was St. Gregory III in 731. He came from what is now Syria. Pope Francis is the third Pope in a row from outside Italy, although he does have Italian roots.

Lastly, in the style of my earlier overview of modern conclaves:

  • 12-13 March 2013: 115 cardinals elected Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as Pope Francis. The election took 5 ballots.

Photo credit: l’Osservatore Romano

Among popes

Eighty-five years of age and, three days from now, seven years as pope. Does Pope Benedict (seen left, celebrating a private Mass on his birthday) break any records with these numbers, and how does he compare to his various predecessors? Let’s take a look at him and the ten popes before him.

As far as age is concerned, Pope Benedict XVI is certainly among the oldest active popes. Only Pope Leo XIII was pope at a higher age, ending his life at 93 in 1903. Blessed John Paul II, in comparison, was 84 at the time of his passing in 2005. He was also the youngest of the ten most recent popes: when he began his papacy in 1978, he was 58 years old. Benedict XVI was already twenty years older than that at the start of his papacy.

The longest papacy was, again, that of Bl. John Paul II, ay 26 years. Leo XIII’s comes close at 25.5 years. Pius XII’s papacy lasted from almost 20 years. On the other of the scale we have Pope John Paul I’s time on the see of Rome: a mere 33 days in 1978. Benedict XVI’s seven years, then, does not rank high: he leaves only the papacies of John Paul I and Blessed John XXIII (4 years and 218 days) behind him.

While there have been a fair number of longer papacies, the current one is obviously not at an end. We hope and pray that the Holy Father still has many years in good health before him. Today, he is a shining example that age is not an impediment to good pastoral leadership, sharp intellect and good humour.

Photo credit: Reuters/Osservatore Romano

Verbum Domini

In case you were wondering, dear reader: yes, I am very much aware of yesterday surprise (well, to me) publication of the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini about “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church”. It is the lengthy document which is the result of 2008’s 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The Exhortation is the second from Pope Benedict XVI, following 2007’s Sacramentum Caritatis.

Verbum Domini fits into a lineage of Exhortations and other documents relating to the Word of God, dating back to the the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII in the 19th century.

Time constraints mean that I am slowly working through it, and I intend to post thoughts about Verbum Domini semi-regularly. If possible, I will also provide Dutch translations of individual chapters. Something to look forward to then.

The Official Acts of the Holy See, and lots of them

A wealth of historical information has been made digitally available by the Vatican: the official Acts of the Holy See from 1865 to 2007. That covers the papacies of Popes Pius IX, Leo XII, Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, as well as the unification of Italy, two Vatican Councils, the challenge of modernism, the publication of the first Code of Canon Law, two world wars, the creation of the Vatican City State and the cold war. A lot of topics which directly affected the Vatican and the Catholic Church and which resulted in many hundreds of pages of documents.

Browsing is not really useful with this collection, since the PDF files take while to load, due to their size. And it requires a working knowledge of Italian, but all the same: it’s a treasure chest of information.

Now to learn Italian…