A pleasant meeting, criticism allowed – Scandinavian bishops on Ad Limina

The bishops of Scandinavia are wrapping up their ad limina visit to Rome these days. Tomorrow will be the last of their six-day program, which included an audience with Pope Francis on Thursday. It is the first time the entire conference met with Pope Francis to discuss the state of affairs in their countries.

The Nordic Bishops’ Conference is made up of the bishops of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland, and has six members: Bishop Czeslaw Kozon of Copenhagen, Bishop Anders Cardinal Arborelius of Stockholm, Bishop Bernt Eidsvig of Oslo and Trondheim, Bishop Berislav Grgic of Troms∅, Bishop David Tencer of Reykjavik and Bishop Teemu Sippo of Helsinki. This ad limina is the first time that they have a cardinal among them: Stockholm’s Cardinal Arborelius, and one of the daily Masses celebrated by the bishops took place in the cardinal’s title church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. In an interview with Domradio, Cardinal Arborelius commented:

“One could say that that is my home in Rome. As cardinal one is connected in a special way to Rome, to Peter, the Holy See. And that is why every cardinal has the privilege of a church of his own in Rome. I feel somehow at home here, which is a strange but beautiful experience.

[…]

[In this church] they really try and bring the social teachings of the Church to life. People in need are helped here, and that is a prophetic message for the entire Church. We should be concerned more about those in need.”

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The bishops visited most of the dicasteries of the curia, starting with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (pictured above). Prefect Cardinal Robert Sarah encouraged them to use the liturgy as an instrument of evangelisation and to promote its appreciation. Archbishop Arthur Roche, the secretary, lauded the high standards of the translations of the liturgical texts into the various Scandinavian languages.

On Thursday the bishops met with Pope Francis for ninety minutes in an informal setting. Joining them was Bishop Peter Bürcher, emeritus bishop of Reykjavik. Cardinal Arborelius:

“[Pope Francis] was very personable and said, “You may speak very openly with me and even be critical. It is allowed to criticise the pope here, but not beyond the walls of this room. But he said so in jest. It was a very open and also pleasant conversation.”

Some of the topics discussed were the question of youth and how they may be integrated in the life of the Church, with an eye on the upcoming Synod of Bishops assembly on youth and vocation; but also the situation of migrants, which is especially noteworthy for the Church in Scandinavia, as she grows there thanks to immigrants. Pope Francis also asked about the celebration of the sacraments, vocations, ecumenism and the life of priests in Scandinavia. The bishops and the pope also looked back on the papal visit to Lund, which, the bishops said, left a great impression, among both Catholics and Lutherans.

Bishop Czeslaw Kozon of Copenhagen, and also president of the bishops’ conference, summarised a part of the audience with the pope in this video from Vatican News:

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^On the first day of their ad limina visit, the Nordic bishops celebrated Mass above the tomb of St. Peter, underneath St. Peter’s Basilica.

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For five new cardinals, one new and four old title churches

The five cardinals created in Pope Francis’ fourth consistory, yesterday, received, in addition to their red birettas and a papal reminder to be servants rather than princes, a title church each. Even Cardinal Rosa Chavéz, not being an ordinary, received a title church rather than a deanery. This most likely since he has pastoral duties over a local flock rather than in the Roman curia, albeit under an archbishop with final authority.

Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavéz is also the only cardinal of the five to receive a new title church, that is a church that has never been a title church before. Santissimo Sacramento a Tor de’ Schiavi was built in the 1960s and consecrated in 1968.

The other four title churches all have a history – some long, some short – as cardinal title churches.

Cardinal Jean Zerbo is the cardinal-priest of Sant’Antonio da Padova a Via Tuscolana. Consecrated in 1965 and managed by the Rogationists, the church was held by one cardinal before. He was Brazilian Paulo Arns, who passed away in December and had this title since his creation in 1973.

Cardinal Juan Omella Omella has an ancient title. Santa Croce in Gerusalemme has been a title church since the 7th century. Its most recent cardinal-protector was Czech Miloslav Vlk, and others include four popes, as well as the first Dutch cardinal ever, Willem van Rossum.

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Cardinal Anders Arborelius (pictured above) was given the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, a 16th century church previously held by American Cardinal William Keeler. The church became a title church in 1565.

Cardinal Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, then, hold the title of San Silvestro in Capite. Its three previous protectors all hailed from the British Isles, the most recent of whom was Irish Cardinal Desmond Connell. Among its earlier cardinal-protectors was the later Pope Clement XI.

The title churches of cardinals serve to tie them into the church of Rome. Originally, the cardinals were the priests of Rome working with their bishop, the pope. As the Church grew and cardinals resided sometimes very far from Rome, they were still appointed to a church in the city, as if to say that that was their position from which to work with the Holy Father. In reality, a cardinal has little to no influence in his title church beyond the presence of their coat of arms after they have taken possession of the church. That possession is usually taken within about a year after a cardinal’s creation, although there are exceptions: Chicago’s Cardinal Cupich took possession of San Bartolomeo all’Isola a day after his creation, while Cardial Kutwa of Abidjan waited a full three years to make Sant’Emerenziana a Tor Fiorenza his own.

The new cardinals will be appointed to serve on the various congregations and councils in the Curia wiuthin the coming months.

Photo credit: CNS photo/Paul Haring