A new “travelling Pope”

f96763944f2eb5b73f91fea96bbf01a4-690x450Pope Francis returns from his visit to Bulgaria and North Macedonia today, and so concludes his 29th international journey. He has visited all continents except Oceania and Antarctica (hey, if the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow can do it…), and more than a few of his travels have been the first papal visits to the countries in question. And with those data, it is clear that the title of “Traveling Pope” should now be given to the current pontiff.

Pope John Paul II Visit to Ireland, Shannon Airport

Pope Saint John Paul II is the traditional holder of the moniker, and not without reason. In the 31 years if his papacy he made 104 international visits to 129 different countries. Pope Francis has been pope for a little more than six years, so any useful comparison must take that into account. Comparing it with the first 6 years (and two months) of St. John Paul II’s papacy, Pope Francis comes out on top, with 29 visits, five more than the late pontiff’s 24 (Pope Benedict XVI, in comparison, made 20 international visits in the same timespan).

Like St. John Paul II, Pope Francis immediately struck out far abroad, with visits to Brazil, Israel and South Korea before visiting a country closer to Italy, Albania, on his fourth visit. St. John Paul II went to the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the Bahamas before heading to a European destination (in his case Poland), although those first three countries were visited on a single trip, whereas Francis made three separate journeys. Pope Benedict XVI, on the other hand, first focussed on Europe, visiting Poland, Spain and Germany (twice) before visiting Turkey and Brazil.

Both Benedict XVI and Francis inherited their first papal visit from their predecessor, and both were made in the context of the World Youth Day. Benedict XVI visited Cologne and Francis Rio de Janeiro.

Unlike his two predecessors, Pope Francis did not include his native country among his first visits. In fact, he is yet to visit Argentina. St. John Paul II visited Poland on his second visit and Benedict XVI went to Germany on his very first, although, as mentioned above, he inherited that visit from St. John Paul II. His fourth visit was again to Germany.

In comparing Popes Francis and St. John Paul II, one more thing must be noted: their age. St. John Paul II was between 58 and 64 in his first six years as pope. Francis was 76 when elected, and is now 82. That makes him being the new “travelling Pope” all the more remarkable.

Photo credit: [1] AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, [2] Tim Graham/Getty Images

 

Shepherds for life – the Church’s longest-serving active bishops

Recently, I read about the appointment, in the United States, of Bishop Salvatore Matano as Bishop of Rochester. He succeeds Bishop Matthew Clark, who headed the diocese since his appointment in 1979. In other words, Bishop Clark held that see for almost exactly my entire life until now. That is quite a long time for a bishop to remain in one place, although there may be much to be said for a shepherd to lead one flock for as long as he can.

The above made me wonder what other bishops have such a long time in a single see behind them. A little bit of reasearch resulted in the top 10 I present below. I have only looked at bishops who are still in office, and I have taken their date of consecration as the starting date of the office (if they were consecrated before being appointed to their current sees, I took the date of appointment as a basis).

10. Bishop Sebastian Koto Khoarai
Bishop of Mohale’s Hoek, Lesotho
Consecrated on 2 April 1978

At 84, Bishop Khoarai is well past retirement age, but continues in office as ordinary of Mohale’s Hoek. He became the first bishop of that diocese when it was split off from the Archdiocese of Maseru in 1977.

9. Bishop Philip Sulumeti

philip_sulumeti1

Bishop of Kakamega, Kenya
Appointed on 28 February 1978

Also past retirement age, at 76, Bishop Sulumeti was auxiliary bishop of his native Diocese of Kisumu (today an archdiocese) from 1972 to 1976, and bishop of the same circumscription from 1976 to 1978, before being appointment to Kakamega when that diocese was split off from Kisumu.

8. Bishop Jean-Claude Bouchard

bouchard

Bishop of Pala, Chad
Consecrated on 1 May 1977

Canadian-born Bishop Bouchard is the third bishop of the Chadian Diocese of Pala. He is a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a missionary society, which explains his appointment to the central African country.

7. Bishop Howard James Hubbard

Hubbard_Howard_J

Bishop of Albany, United States
Consecrated on 27 March 1977

A few weeks into the retirement age of 75, Bishop Hubbard may not have to wait overly long before ending his 36 years as bishop of Albany. He is the longest-serving American bishop and also the longest-serving western ordinary.

6. Archbishop Hieronymus Herculanus Bumbun

Bumbun

Archbishop of Pontianak, Indonesia
Appointed on 26 February 1977

After two years as Pontianak’s auxiliary bishop, from 1975 to 1977, Archbishop Bumbun became the archdiocese’s first native ordinary. At 76, the Capuchin bishop is also past retirement age.

5. Bishop Gilbert Guillaume Marie-Jean Aubry

aubry

Bishop of Saint-Denis-de-la-Réunion
Consecrated on 2 May 1976

A native of the French possession of Réunion in the Indian Ocean, Bishop Aubry was appointed at the fairly young age of 34.

4. Bishop Franghískos Papamanólis

papamanolis

Bishop of Syros (e Milos), Greece
Bishop of Santorini, Greece
Ordained on 20 October 1974

Bishops in Greece tend to stay in office for a long time, and new appointments are rarely made, which explains the presence of two Greek ordinaries in this list. Capuchin Bishop Papamanólis is the ordinary of two dioceses and also Apostolic Administrator of Crete.

3. Archbishop Nikólaos Fóscolos

Foscolos

Archbishop of Athenai, Greece
Consecrated on 12 August 1973

The archbishop of Greece’s capital came to the see at the age of 36 and continues still at almost 77.

2. Archbishop Hovhannes Tcholakian

tcholakian

Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Istanbul, Turkey
Consecrated on 5 March 1967

The Armenian Catholic Church does not know a mandatory retirement age, which is why Archbishop Tcholakian is still in office at 94. He is considered the oldest serving ordinary of the Catholic Church, but not the oldest non-retired bishop…

1. Bishop Dominik Kalata

Kalata1

Bishop
Consecrated on 9 September 1955

That honour goes to Bishop Kalata, the Polish-born prelate who is not an ordinary, and never has been. One of the eastern European clerics consecrated bishops in secret during the Cold War, Bishop Kalata was given a titular see, Semta, in 1985, when relations between east and west were warming, but the Holy See never got around to appointing him to a regular see, unlike some other bishops who were consecrated at the same time. The Jesuit bishop now resides in Germany and does pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau.

Synod of Bishops – Day Three

Trying to stay up to speed with the news is a task and a half, especially if it needs to be done in any free time available. Hence the relative silence yesterday and the double coverage of the Synod of Bishops today.

On to Day 3 then, which coincided with Wednesday. In the morning the Synod fathers split of in the several working groups, which are divided by language group. First on their agenda was the election of moderators and relators, or presiding prelates and communication officers, a list which was presented at the start of the afternoon session. The list of groups, with their moderators and relators is as follows:

  • Anglicus A: Moderator: Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Archbishop of Durban, South Africa. Relator: Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville, United States.
  • Anglicus B: Moderator: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, Ireland. Relator: Archbishop Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, United Kingdom.
  • Anglicus C: Moderator: Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, India. Relator: Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, Archbishop of Glasgow, United Kingdom.
  • Anglicus D: Moderator: Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, Australia. Relator: Bishop Kieran O’Reilly, Bishop of Killaloe, Ireland.
  • Gallicus A: Moderator: Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Relator: Bishop Dominique Rey, Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, France.
  • Gallicus B: Moderator: Archbishop Yves Patenôtre, Archbishop of Sens, France. Relator: Archbishop Claude Dagens, Archbishop of Angoulême, France.
  • Germanicus: Moderator: Bishop Ägidius Zsifkovics, Bishop of Eisenstadt, Austria. Relator: Bishop Ladislav Nemet, Bishop of Zrenjanin, Serbia.
  • Hispanicus A: Moderator: Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop of Tlalnepantla, Mexico. Relator: Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, Archbishop of Valladolid, Spain.
  • Hispanicus B: Moderator: Bishop Julio Terán Dutari, Bishop of Ibarra, Ecuador. Relator: Bishop Santiago Silva Retamales, Auxiliary Bishop of Valparaíso, Chile.
  • Italicus A: Moderator: Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. Relator: Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation.
  • Italicus B: Moderator: Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa, Italy. Relator: Archbishop Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy.
  • Italicus C: Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. Relator: Father Renato Salvatore, Superior General of the Clerks Regular of the Ministers of the Sick (Camillians).

In the afternoon, the Synod continued with the interventions of 16 fathers. The first speaker, Cardinal Tauran (pictured at right), said some interesting things about interreligious dialogue, which is, of course, his area of expertise. In that dialogue, he said,

“there is no room for syncretism or relativism! Faced with adepts from other religions with a strong religious identity, it is necessary to present motivated and doctrinally equipped Christians. This makes the new evangelization a priority to form coherent Christians, capable of demonstrating their faith, with simple words and without fear.”

About the situation in Turkey, Bishop Louis Pelâtre, the Vicar Apostolic of Istanbul, had some important words to say about the use of the Internet by the Church, words which are equally valuable for other parts of the world. The bishops said:

“The young generation learns about the faith through the internet. Having practically no access to public radios or televisions, we can however use these private networks used more by the evangelical Protestants than by the Catholics. From this the need for well-prepared and qualified workers for the harvest that awaits us. This specific apostolate cannot be satisfied by good will and improvisation alone.”

The most noted contribution, at least in social media, to this day’s session came from the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, pictured at left during his intervention. His theological address focussed on contemplation, and how that needs to be a first step before we present our faithful face to the world:

“To be contemplative as Christ is contemplative is to be open to all the fullness that the Father wishes to pour into our hearts. With our minds made still and ready to receive, with our self-generated fantasies about God and ourselves reduced to silence, we are at last at the point where we may begin to grow. And the face we need to show to our world is the face of a humanity in endless growth towards love, a humanity so delighted and engaged by the glory of what we look towards that we are prepared to embark on a journey without end to find our way more deeply into it, into the heart of the trinitarian life. St Paul speaks (in II Cor 3.18) of how ‘with our unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord’, we are transfigured with a greater and greater radiance. That is the face we seek to show to our fellow-human beings.”

And this, Dr. Williams said, is the goal of that contemplative attitude:

“[I]t is the key to prayer, liturgy, art and ethics, the key to the essence of a renewed humanity that is capable of seeing the world and other subjects in the world with freedom – freedom from self-oriented, acquisitive habits and the distorted understanding that comes from them. To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit. To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter.”

In that contemplation, we allow ourselves to be transformed by God, to be more and more conformed to His Trinitarian identity. This means that we can’t be bound any longer by our own selfish desires.

“To learn to look to God without regard to my own instant satisfaction, to learn to scrutinise and to relativise the cravings and fantasies that arise in me – this is to allow God to be God, and thus to allow the prayer of Christ, God’s own relation to God, to come alive in me. Invoking the Holy Spirit is a matter of asking the third person of the Trinity to enter my spirit and bring the clarity I need to see where I am in slavery to cravings and fantasies and to give me patience and stillness as God’s light and love penetrate my inner life. Only as this begins to happen will I be delivered from treating the gifts of God as yet another set of things I may acquire to make me happy, or to dominate other people.”

There is more, and I coud just post the entire text here. But that will just make this blog post far too longer, so check the day’s Bulletin for the texts, both of Dr. Williams’ address and the summaries of the other interventions.

Risky trip – Pope to Lebanon

A week from today, on 14 September, Pope Benedict XVI will depart on what is, in some ways, one of the most risky apostolic journeys of his papacy. He will be returning to the Middle East for the fourth time – after Turkey (2006), Jordan, Israel and Palestine (2009) and Cyprus (2010) – and this time the ever-looming spectre of local tensions is very concrete in the form of the civil war raging in next-door Syria. And with Lebanon’s recent history firmly tied up with that of Syria, the papal journey has been in limbo until recently.

Lebanon is the most Christian country in the Middle East, with almost 40% of the population belonging to several Christian churches, with the Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch being the largest of these. Other Churches in union with Rome that have a significant presence in Lebanon are the Greek Melkites, the Armenian, the Chaldean, the Syrian and the Roman Catholic Church. All these Churches have their own circumscriptions, which makes for an intricate landscape of dioceses, patriarchates and vicariates. There are 33 active bishops and patriarchs in the country, headed by   the Patriarchs Béchara Pierre Raï (Maronite), Nersès Bédros XIX Tarmouni (Armenian) and Ignace Youssif III Younan (Syrian). Also of note are Lebanon’s only cardinal, Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir (Maronite emeritus) and Ignace Pierre VIII Abdel-Ahad (Syrian emeritus).

The upcoming papal visit will be a three-day affair, with major events careful spaced over the available time. On 14 September, the Holy Father will obviously be welcomed in Beirut, and he will sign the Post-Synodal Exhortation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops (which he himself kicked off during his visit to Cyprus two years ago). On 15 September, Pope Benedict will meet with representatives of the government, diplomats, religious leaders (always interesting in a country with a strong Muslim presence) and the world of culture. He’ll also meet with young people, another staple of papal visits abroad, at the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkerké. The last day, 16 September, will see a public Mass and the presentation of the Post-Synodal Exhortation, as well as the recitation of the Angelus and the departure ceremony.

A fairly short visit, but an important one, as its impact will not be limited to Lebanon. Countries like Syria and Iraq, which also have fairly significant Christian minorities, are no doubt also a focal point of this visit.

In the meantime, let’s pray for safety for the Holy Father during his journey to a place where tensions run high, and for a fruitful apostolic journey, for Christians in Lebanon and abroad.

Vicar Apostolic of Anatolia murdered

Just after finishing up my blog post about the upcoming papal visit to Cyprus, I read the news of the murder of Bishop Luigi Padovese, Vicar Apostolic of Anatolia in Turkey. He was stabbed to death in his house in the south of Turkey, by his chauffeur. The murderer is said to have had psychological problems for some time and was in therapy. Turkish authorities say he was arrested soon after the murder.

Msgr. Padovese was to take part in the events of the papal visit to Cyprus. Born in 1947 in Milan, Italy, and a member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, he was ordained a priest in 1973. In 2004 he was appointed to the vicariate of Anatolia. As such he was the chairman of the Turkish conference of bishops. Bishop Padovese was 57.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord