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Although the first weeks of a new Pope’s reign are undoubtedly not standard, there are duties which assert themselves fairly soon. Especially this year, the new Pope has had to devote himself to the duties of Holy Week, but there are also other duties related to the government of the Church which are being picked up again. One of these is the regular audiences with members of the Curia, and here we may keep a watchful eye for the future plans of Pope Francis regarding that same Curia.
In the past few days, four curial prelates have met with Pope Francis: Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches (and fellow Argentinean); Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Consecrated and Apostolic Life; and Cardinal Marc Ouellet (pictured), Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
Of course, the fact that these cardinals were among the first to meet officially with the Holy Father may be the result of pure chance, but it may also indicate who Pope Francis wanted to speak with most urgently. Cardinal Cordes’ work for the Holy See’s charitable arm certainly fits with the Pope’s concern for the poor and Cardinal Bráz de Aviz could have been on the list because Pope Francis was himself a member of a religious order. Cardinal Sandri’s audience may in part have been held because of their shared nationality, but may also point towards the importance that the Holy Father attaches to the Churches of the East. Cardinal Ouellet’s visit, finally, could be the most interesting.
Shortly after his election, Pope Francis spoke privately with Cardinal Ouellet, giving him, in the cardinal’s words, very concrete instructions. What these are have not been revealed. Could they indicate a new role for the Canadian cardinal within the Curia?
On the other hand, Cardinal Ouellet and Pope Francis may have simply been discussing the work of the Congregation for Bishops and upcoming appointments and transfers of new bishops.
Photo credit: PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images
As 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
Opening the thirteenth general congregation on Tuesday morning, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic read a special message from the 90-year-old bishop of Fengxiang in China, Msgr. Lucas Ly Jingfeng, who wrote:
“Most Reverend and Excellent Fathers of the XIII Assembly of the Synod,
I would like to congratulate you, who could participate at the Synod and give homage to the Sepulcher of Saint Peter. I am very sad that you could not listen to any of the voices of the Chinese Church. Wishing to share at least some words with you, and above all with our Pope Benedict XVI, I am sending this brief message. I would like to say that our Church in China, in particular the laity, has always maintained up to today piety, faithfulness, sincerity and devotion to the first Christians, even while undergoing fifty years of persecutions. I would also like to add that I pray intensely and constantly to God the Omnipotent so that our piety, our faithfulness, our sincerity and our devotion may turn around tepidness, unfaithfulness and the secularization that have arisen abroad because of an openness and freedom without reins. In the Year of the Faith, in your synodal discussions you can see how our faith in China could be maintained unfailingly until today. And as the great Chinese philosopher Lao Tse said: “Just as calamity generates prosperity, thus in weakness calamity hides itself”. In the Church outside of China, tepidity, unfaithfulness and secularization of the faithful has spread to much of the clergy. Instead, in the Chinese Church the laity is more pious than the clergy. Could not perhaps piety, faithfulness, sincerity and the devotion of the Christian laity shake up the external clergy? I was very moved by the lament by Pope Benedict XVI: “As we know, in vast areas of the earth faith risks being extinguished, like a flame that is no longer fed. We are facing a profound crisis of faith, a loss of the religious sense that constitutes the greatest challenge to the Church today. The renewal of faith must therefore take priority in the commitment of the entire Church in our time” (Speech by the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the participants of the plenary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, January 27th 2012). However, I believe that our faith as Chinese Christians could console the Pope. I will not mention politics, which is always transeunte.
A loving and heartfelt message from the Church in China.
Following this, interventions continued, by 22 Synod fathers and 7 auditors in the morning sessions. The first speaker was Telesphore Cardinal Toppo, archbishop of Ranchi in India, who pulled few punches in his call towards religious congregation to become missionary again:
“I would like to make a humble appeal to the religious orders to become missionary again! In the history of evangelization, all the religious orders led by the Holy Spirit have done outstanding and marvelous work. Can we say the same of the Religious Congregations today? Could it be that they have begun working like Multinationals, doing very good and necessary work to meet the material needs of humanity, but have forgotten that the primary purpose of their founding was to bring the kerygma, the Gospel, to a lost world? We must appreciate many Youth Groups and new Ecclesial Movements who are taking up the challenge. But, in my opinion this Synod must appeal to the Religious men and women to explicitly and directly take up the work of evangelization and transmission of faith in collaboration with the local bishops! I would also like to call upon the Sacred Congregation for Consecrated life to be pro active in promoting the sensus ecclesiae among all religious.”
Bishop Joseph Zziwa of Kiyinda-Mityana in Uganda called for the Church to fight for the return of religious education in schools, identifying the problem as follows:
“[I]n some countries, in recent years, catechesis or teaching religion has been sidelined or removed from the education system even in Catholic-founded Schools or institutions of learning. The situation is aggravated in public institutions where there are no programs of catechesis or Christian religious education at all for our Catholic students. Religious education is considered to be a private matter, to be attended to only in the church or at home.”
This is certainly the situation in the west, not least here in the Netherlands.
A topic that some noted seemed to be missing from the Synod deliberations, was touched upon by Archbishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha, of Mariana in Brazil, when he said:
“As the liturgy is the special place where the presence of the Gospel is alive and therefore the privileged place for education in the faith, or rather “the permanent holy mystagogy of the Church”, this must appear in the very manner in which it is celebrated. The fascinating and contagious beauty of the mystery hidden in rites and symbols must be capable of being expressed in all its strength for the liturgy to truly evangelize. Therefore the new evangelization depends to a great extent on the capacity to make the liturgy the source of spiritual life. Probably our most demanding task and the greatest challenge is to succeed in ensuring that our liturgical celebrations are ever more beautiful and transparent in their divine beauty, source of new and renewing strength that brings joy and hope to the Christian, in order to live in Christ and in the love of the Lord.”
Without the liturgy, the earthly reflection of the divine worship of God, we are unable to know and relate to our heavenly Father, let alone let others come to know Him.
Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, of Jakarta in Indonesia, shares a personal anecdote to illustrate that evangelisation is sometimes as simple as leading by example:
“I would like to share with you a simple experience I had during my visit to a parish where I met a local catechist. I asked him, “How many catechumens do you have?” I was surprised to hear that he had more than ninety catechumens. It was quite a lot. I asked him further, “Have you ever asked your catechumens why they wish to be baptized into the Catholic Church?” He answered, “Many of them said that they were touched by the way Catholics pray during public events such as wedding feasts or funeral services”. The prayers are so touching to their hearts, because in those occasions the invocations and benedictions are delivered in their vernacular mother tongue so that they readily understand the content, whereas before they usually heard prayers recited in a foreign language, as Muslims pray in Arabic.”
One of the auditors, experts in various fields, who offered an intervention, was Mikhail Fateev of a St. Petersburg, Russia, television channel. He pointed at that, i the necessary ecumenical outreach in Russia people are less interested in meeting ‘fellow Christians’ than ‘Catholic Christians’:
“[I]n search for unity we should not reject or forget our Catholic identity. The people are more ready to speak with us as exactly with the Catholics, not as with “common Christians”. We could see this after a meeting organized by the lay Catholics in one of the largest bookstores of Saint Petersburg. The event attracted much interest in media. So we decided to start a series of public meetings and discussions on Catholic Church, its faith and traditions. We, Catholics, went out to meet the people and were met with a great interest!”
Something to keep in mind in our own ecumenical efforts: our own identity is the first step towards commonality.
At the start of the afternoon session, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone spoke and announced a delegation to Syria to express the Holy See’s solidarity with the Syrian people, their spiritual closeness to the Christians there, and to encourage an agreement to resolve the ongoing civil war. The delegation is set to leave for Damascus next week, and will consist of Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya (Archbishop of Kinshasa), Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran (President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue), Timothy Cardinal Dolan (Archbishop of New York), Bishop Fabio Suescun Mutis (Military Ordinar of Colombia), Bishop Joseph Nguyen Nang (Bishop of Phat Diem), Archbishop Dominique Mamberti (Secretary for Relations with States) and Msgr. Alberto Ortega (official of the Secretariat of State).
Nine interventions followed in the course of the fourteenth general congregation, including one by Bishop Everard de Jong (pictured, far left), the single Dutch delegate to the Synod. He spoke about the importance of prayer, especially to the Holy Spirit, in the new evangelisation. “It was Pentecost that started the first evangelization, and we need a new Pentecost,” he said, suggesting also that the Holy Father introduce Benedictine prayers at the end of Mass, as was standard in the past, or perhaps a constant novena to the Holy Spirit.
“We do not only have to present the gospel and the catechism, but have to promote the spiritual exercises, in which we confront people with the Jesus of the gospels and the Church, and help them to compare the influence of His Spirit in their lives with the outcomes of a more hedonistic way of life (cfr. Ga. 5:29-23). Thus they will be led to the knowledge and recognition of the objective truth of their human nature, its deepest desires, and God in their conscience. In this way they will discover St. Peter and his successors, and the church (Cf. Bl. John Henry Card. Newman (1801-1890). This means we should give priests and religious a better spiritual formation, in order to be spiritual directors, to be real spiritual fathers and mothers.”
Bishop de Jong also spoke about family and life:
“Families are essential in the transmission of the gospel. In this context our society does not know sin anymore. Still, sin has its influence on the openness to the gospel-message. Pornography, sexuality outside marriage of man and woman, contraception, abortion, will close the heart. Who, indeed, can say yes to God, the giver of life in abundance, if he or she, consciously or unconsciously, says no to human life? This means that the Church should courageously promote the gospel of life, including the theology of the body, natural family planning, and at the same time announce the very merciful God.”
After the interventions from the Synod fathers, six fraternal delegates and one special guest also offered their thoughts, among them Brother Alois, the prior of Taizé, who spoke about the need for communion as a fruitful basis for hope and faith.
Photo credit:  Wilson Dias/ABr,  Lidy Peters/RKK
The annual yearbook of the Church, the Annuario Pontificio, edition 2012, was presented to Pope Benedict XVI this morning. The book lists basically everything there is to be listed about the Church in the preceding year, although the actual statistics are from 2010.
Vatican Radio gives a short summary of the most interesting statistics, although it seems to be getting the number of professed religious wrong. It either rose to some unknown number, or dropped to the 721,935.
In absolute numbers the Church is growing, although locally, especially in Europe, the trend is the opposite. Relatively to the world population, the numbers stayed about the same.
The ten new jurisdictions established by the pope in 2011 are:
- Diocese of Bo, Sierra Leone
- Diocese of Kondoa, Tanzania
- Diocese of Naviraí, Brazil
- Diocese of Sylhet, Bangladesh
- Diocese of Kabwe, Zambia
- Diocese of Gaoua, Burkina Faso
- Diocese of La Ceiba, Honduras
- Chaldean Eparchy of Mar Addai of Toronto, Canada
- Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, United Kingdom
- Military Ordinariate of Bosnia and Herzegovina
In the aftermath of my post on Bishop Schilder, I wondered how many other Dutch bishops are serving abroad, or, at least, are still alive. In a twist of irony, the Netherlands was at one time something of an exporter of missionary priests and religious and some of those ended up climbing the ranks to become bishops of a diocese on another continent.
A glance at the unrivaled repository of all things bishop that is Catholic-Hierarchy, I found a list of all living bishops who in some way have something to do with the Netherlands. Among them the bishops who were born here but who put on the mitre somewhere else. There are twelve of them. Eight have already retired, and four are still active.
They are the following:
- Monsignor Everardus Antonius M. Baaij, S.C.I. 89 years old. Emeritus Bishop of Aliwal, South Africa. Ordinary from 1973 to 1981
- Monsignor Wilhelmus Josephus Adrianus Maria de Bekker. 71 years old. Bishop of Paramaribo, Suriname. Ordinary since 2004.
- Monsignor Wilhelmus Joannes Demarteau, M.S.F. 94 years old. Emeritus Bishop of Banjarmasin, Indonesia. Ordinary from 1961 to 1983. From 1954 to 1961 he was the Vicar Apostolic of Banjarmasin, then not yet a diocese.
- Monsignor Henk Kronenberg, S.M. 76 years old. Emeritus Bishop of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Ordinary from 1999 to 2009.
- Monsignor Herman Ferdinandus Maria Münninghoff, O.F.M. 89 years old. Emeritus Bishop of Jayapura, Indonesia. Ordinary from 1972 to 1997.
- Monsignor Joseph John Oudeman, O.F.M. Cap. 69 years old (exactly 69 today, by the way). Auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane, Australia. Auxiliary since 2002.
- Monsignor Cornelius Schilder, M.H.M. 69 years old. Emeritus Bishop of Ngong, Kenya. Ordinary from 2002 to 2009.
- Monsignor Andreas Peter Cornelius Sol, M.S.C. 95 years old. Emeritus Bishop of Amboina, Indonesia. Appointed Coadjutor Bishop in 1963, ordinary from 1965 to 1994.
Monsignor Johannes Henricus J. Te Maarssen, S.V.D. 77 years old. Emeritus Bishop of Kundiawa, Papua New Guinea. Ordinary from 2000 to 2009.
- Monsignor Theodorus van Ruijven, C.M. 72 years old. Vicar Apostolic of Nekemte, Ethiopia. Appointed Prefect of Jimma-Bonga in 1998, Vicar Apostolic of Nekemte since 2009.
- Monsignor Hugo María van Steekelenburg, O.F.M. 73 years old. Bishop of Almenara, Brazil. Ordinary since 1999.
- Monsignor Vital João Geraldo Wilderink, O. Carm. 79 years old. Emeritus Bishop of Itaguaí, Brazil. Appointed Auxiliary BIshop of Barra do Piraí-Volta Redonda in 1978, ordinary of Itaguaí from 1980 to 1998.
All but one of these bishops belong to religious orders or congregations, indicated by the abbreviations behind their names, evidence that all of them once joined the mission as priests. The twelve also represented at least two distinct generations. The first in the late 80s and 90s, and the second, still serving for the most part, in their 60s and 70s. The youngest, Bishop Oudeman, being 69, does show that this Dutch presence among the bishops of other nations is slowly coming to an end. After all, it is not unheard of that priests in their 40s or 50s are appointed bishops, but these men are well beyond that age. Besides, most of the countries named above are now ‘homegrowing’ their own bishops, so there is less need to fall back on the mission.
But, as it is, these twelve men of God remind us of a part of the recent history of the Catholic Church in the Netherlands which seems quite unusual to our modern eyes.
Contuining the theme of the previous post, vocations, a piece from Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-Saint Joseph. A few key phrases in bold.
In my first months as bishop of the diocese I said Vocations were a “Super Priority.” While we have had a meaningful increase in vocations to priesthood, the diaconate, and some new vocations to consecrated life, I still offer this intention for more vocations to priesthood and Consecrated Life with fervor in my daily prayer. I hope you do also.
We are reaching the midpoint of the Year for Priests, inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI last June. How proud I am of our priests who do so much for you, God’s people. Still, they need more help, particularly as the pastoral needs seem always to increase. This year, please God, we will ordain four new priests; and it remains possible that in 2012 we could celebrate the ordination of eight or nine new priests at once. I haven’t figured out how we will get everyone in the Cathedral; a pleasing dilemma!
Am I greedy to suggest that we need more priests? I believe that God is calling more men to this wonderful vocation, and we have to listen carefully and prepare well so that your sons can hear and answer that call.
What kind of life awaits the priest? To be sure, there are many joys, and also challenges. The priest is helped by God to give himself to many people. He shares in the greatest joys of people’s lives and is with them in times of hardship and sorrow. He is a pastor, a shepherd, a teacher, and spiritual father. He stands in the place of Jesus Christ, particularly in the Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
How does a man discern a possible vocation to priesthood? The healthy man (healthy in body, mind and soul), as he matures, wants to give himself in an honest and generous way. It is important and normal that he sees the beauty of marriage, and its central meaning and purpose in society. At the same time, he realizes he has a spiritual dimension to his life and he wants to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and follow God’s call wherever it may take him. He works hard at every task before him, and finds joy in generously reaching out to others. He studies with zeal. He prays. He establishes caring friendships, and determines to live a moral life, growing in the frequent reception of the sacraments, particularly of Confession and Holy Eucharist.
As a man experiences this spiritual depth to his life, he does not seek a vocation that makes him materially rich or famous. Instead, having realized something of the cost and demands of authentic human love, he is ready to trust God and give himself to others out of love for God. He realizes that the Father in heaven has loved him a lot, and the awareness of this love and mercy makes him want to follow God’s plan in his life. Our seminarians are responding to this vocation to the priesthood. Our priests are living this out with dedication. Keep praying for them to persevere.
The role and support of parents is very important to those who are discerning God’s call. Your sons (and daughters) look up to you for approval. They should. Your love for them is unconditional and unselfish. I do not suggest that you should urge your sons to go to seminary, but pray for them, that they do whatever God wants for them. Support them in their search. I pledge once again to our parents that if we receive their sons as our seminarians we will do all in our power to see they get good formation.
Over the course of my priesthood, I have also had occasion to meet many outstanding men and women Religious. I was taught by and have worked closely with several Orders of Religious Women. There is a real renewal taking place in these vocations today. I have established an office for Consecrated Life, and we stand ready to direct young women and men who may be drawn to Religious life as priests, sisters or brothers.
Our Vocation Director, Fr. Richard Rocha, and the Director of our Office of Consecrated Life, Sr. Connie Boulch, will be pleased to receive your call (816-756-1850) or go to our diocesan website http://www.diocese-kcsj.org and look for the Vocations tab. Let us never cease to do as Jesus urged us: “Beg the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers for His harvest.” (Lk 10:2)
Don’t forget the Support Our Seminarians (S.O.S.) Dinner Auction coming up Friday, January 29, 2010. Your participation and/or donations are greatly appreciated. For information, call the vocation office at 816-756-1850.