The papal visit to the UK, its itinerary and importance

The organisation of the papal visit to the United Kingdom, from 16 to 19 September, have published the itinerary of the four day state visit of Pope Benedict XVI. This visit, I expect, will be a very important one, not just for the UK and the Church, but for all of Europe and the world. Although not as heavily secularised as certain other countries, the UK has a history of ambivalence (to put it mildly) towards the Catholic Church. It is not without reason that this is the first official state visit of a pope since the Reformation. Pope John Paul II did visit in 1982, but that was very much a pastoral visit to the faithful, without the bells and whistles (and consequences) of a state visit.

There are a number of highlights to look forward to. On Thursday the 16th there are the welcome and audience in Edinburgh with Queen Elizabeth II, followed by a reception and addresses by both Her Majesty and the Holy Father. The fact that the Queen is head of the Anglican church adds extra weight to this. The ‘other head’ of the Anglican church, Archbishop Rowan Williams, will receive the pope the next day in his residence of Lambeth Palace in London, which will be followed by the pope’s address in Westminster Hall, the very place where St. Thomas More and others were condemned to death. The fact that the pope will now be speaking in that very place is historically quite significant.

Saturday’s high point will undoubtedly be Mass at Westminster Cathedral, and the Sunday will be all about soon-to-be-Blessed John Henry Newman. The pope will beatify him in the morning, and the afternoon will be spent with the bishop of England, Wales and Scotland.

Like his previous visits to Africa, Malta, Cyprus and Portugal, the eyes of the world will be on Pope Benedict XVI. The Holy Father not being one to shun difficult topics, I would not be surprised if the ongoing secularisation, the current abuse crisis and the escalating anti-life attitude in the world are among the topics raised by him and others. No doubt there will be angry, misguided and emotional headlines following some of his words, but hopefully there will be more intelligent and thoughtful comments. If our modern western society has a hope of growth and development, it must show to be able to transcend the childish emotional response to difficult and painful questions. That is why a visit like this, to a western European country is so important for more than just the host country. It is from the west, after all, that the social diseases have too often come, and it is there that a change must be effected. Those changes must not be limited to the relationship between Church and state, but must also include relations with other faiths, relations in the Church herself, and relations with people of all layers of society.


Stats for July 2010

Time for another look at the statistics of the previous month. When it comes to numbers, July has been very unusual. The number of visitors since the start of January has reached 46, 041, and more than half of those visited this month. July has seen 23,789 visits. The top 10 of most popular blog posts shows a very clear winner: the topic of the contents of Cardinal Danneels’ computer, which was linked from a Polish news site.

The news about the orange Mass in Obdam, which made international headlines, also increased the number of visits. Various international Catholic news websites linked to my blog for that. The new auxiliary bishops in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and the upcoming papal visit to England and Scotland were also moderately popular.

1: Pornography or art?: 17,415 visits
2: What to do about the sacrilege displayed in Obdam?: 1,105
3: A diocesan statement about Fr. Paul Vlaar: 799
4: Mottos and titular sees: 108
5: Some facts about the Turin shroud: 102
6: Cardinal Newman to be beatified by the pope, officially announced: 99
7: Introductie op de geest van de liturgie – onofficiële vertaling: 78
8: Back from Bootcamp: 75
9: Closing the discussion: 64
10: The nature of the Church: 59

Stats for June 2010

A few days late, but here they are nonetheless (mostly for myself, I’ll admit)

June was a slightly better month than May, although the news and the topics I wrote about diminished a bit in the second half of the month. 3,652 page views were registered, bringing the total since the beginning of January to 22,582. As I thought, it did indeed cross the 20,000 somewhere around mid-June.

The ten most popular posts were the following:

1: A gentle pope, but rock solid in the execution (167)
2: St. Boniface Day 2010 (130)
3: Ouellet to the Congregation for Bishops (81)
4: The curious case of Bishop Walter Mixa (68)
5: Cardinal Newman to be beatified by the pope, officially announced (62)
6: Introductie op de Geest van de Liturgie – onofficiële vertaling (60)
7: Msgr. De Kesel to Bruges? Wow (54)
8: Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form in Amsterdam (52)
9: A difficult choice in the voting booth (48)
10: Father Cor Mennen had better look out… perhaps (44)

The high ranking of my post about the St. Boniface Day is mainly due to a link from my favourite Dutch blogger (for a giving value of ‘favourite’), who saw fit to use it as one more tool to attack my bishop, albeit not very convincingly (seriously, I’m suddenly an authority on  how many people attend an event?). Anyway, spike in stats – always nice.

Speaking of bishops, they and other curia members were the trend in the search terms. Msgr. Gänswein (yes, still), Bishop Mixa and the Venerable Cardinal Newman were all popular.

And lastly, can I say how very happy I am to see my translation of Msgr. Marini’s address on the liturgy still lingering in the top 10? Oh, I just did.

UK bishops publish booklet on papal visit – recommended

The logo of the papal visit to the UK, featuring a quotation from Cardinal Newman: "Heart speaks unto heart".

The bishops’ conference of England and Wales and Scotland have published a rather terrific booklet with information on the upcoming papal visit to the UK. It provides answers to questions about what the pope will be doing, what the nature of his visit is and why it is significant that he will be welcomed by the Queen in Edinburgh. But it also goes beyond that, explaining about Catholic social teachings (highlighting the writings of Pope Benedict XVI on that subject), about ecumenism (even why there are different Christian denominations), the Catholic understanding of herself, the role of the Vatican in the world and in Britain, the beatification of Cardinal Newman, the ongoing abuse crisis and comparable wide-ranging topics.

Because if the wide range of topics it covers, I would say that this booklet is not just useful to the Catholics in the United Kingdom, but for Catholics (and non-Catholics) in any western, secularised country. The natural questions that arise in people are generally covered here, and they are very basic questions: why is there a Church, why is there a pope, why the seeming discrepancy between faith and society?

Signed by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster and Keith Cardinal O’Brien, archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, the booklet is available online via the Archdiocese of Westminster.

Stats for May 2010

Last month saw a bit of a drop in visitors, which I think is due to some days when I was unable to post much and the mere fact that there simply wasn’t as much news as in earlier months. The blog has a total of 3,437 visits, which brings the total since the start of the year to 18,807. It looks like we may break the 20,000 before the mid-point of the year.

The ten most popular posts were the following:

1: A gentle pope, but rock solid in the execution: 221
2: “Someone is more likely to get pregnant from kissing than a paedophile because of celibacy”: 87
3: Welcome news from the Vatican Information Service: 57
4: Introductie op de geest van de liturgie: 56
5: Cardinal Newman to be beatified by the pope, officially announced: 54
6: Muslim worship in a Catholic church: 49
7: Ascension Day: 46
8: Some facts about the Turin shroud: 43
9: “I did not want this disurbance” – Fr. Luc Buyens’ homily: 41
10: “Religious education should be about Jesus”: 39

The Msgr. Gänswein fan club was out in force. The interview with him and the profile I did were linked from one or two fora and fan sites dedicated to the pope’s personal assistant. In search terms we see that as well: No less than 178 searches on Msgr. Gänswein led people to this blog. Another oddly popular search term was ‘yellow warbler’, used 26 times. And then finally, the upcoming papal visit to the UK in September seems to gain momentum: Cardinal Newman, who will be beatified then, was searched for 33 times.

Lastly, I’m still quite pleased to see that the translation of Msgr. Marini’s address about the liturgy remains popular.

“There is no reason to be discouraged as a priest”

On 29 May, ten men will be ordained to the priesthood in the Netherlands. One of these is 34-year-old Patrick Lipsch, who will be ordained for the Diocese of Roermond. The official magazine of that diocese features a profile of the future priest, from which I take the passage below.

Lipsch discusses the attitude with which a young priest enters into his life in the Church in this day and age.

“People sometimes say, as ‘encouragement’: “don’t you mind that you are part of a shrinking Church?” See, I am of a generation that does not know anything else! For the people from the time when Catholic life was flourishing this may be troubling because they are used to something so different. But we don’t have to unlearn anything! I have never known the time that the Church played a prevailing role – also socially – in the parishes. We don’t know any better than that the Church plays a marginal role in modern life. What’s more: we are surprised when a church is full! That is why you don’t check who isn’t there, but who is: the people who have a need for priests who give them hope through their pastoral work. There are plenty of moments like that still, so there is no reason to be discouraged as a priest. The trust you have have in God leading the Church also plays a part. Certainly, His personnel can make mistakes and we’re hearing plenty about that these days, but despite our disloyalty He will also be loyal and He will not abandon us. That is why you must do your best, be happy with the little things and be there for the people who need you. That is our job. No more, but certainly no less.”

I am reminded of a quote by Venerable John Henry Newman: “Learn to do thy part and leave the rest to Heaven.”

Lipsch raises an interesting point. The new Catholic generations, born well after Vatican II and the changes that followed, have a very clean slate. This has both its positive and negative sides, as Fr. Ray Blake points out. One of the positive effects, I would say, is that the ‘little things’ are no longer hidden by social expectations of ‘what should be’ or  ‘what’s normal’, provided that our own expectations are reasonable and founded in a proper sense of our place and function in the greater Church.

Cardinal Newman to be beatified by the pope, officially announced

Numerous bloggers, especially those in the UK, have reported the news of the formal announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the UK from 16 to 19 September. There is an extensive website about the visit, offering all the details and then some. 

Anna Arco has some comments from Keith Cardinal O’Brien, archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, and Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster. 

John Henry Cardinal Newman, painted by W.W. Ouless in 1879

American Papist, lastly, focusses on the great news that Pope Benedict XI will personally beatify Cardinal Newman in Birmingham.  

From the Very Rev. Richard Duffield, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory and Actor of the cause of John Henry Newman come these words: 

The Fathers and many friends of the English Oratories are delighted by the official announcement that our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI will beatify our founder, the Venerable John Henry Newman, in the Archdiocese of Birmingham during his visit to Britain in September. Newman made his home in the Archdiocese for all his adult life, first in Oxford, where he lived as an Anglican and was received into the Catholic Church, and later in Birmingham itself where he founded and worked in the Birmingham Oratory for over forty years. 

The Holy Father’s life-long devotion to Newman has made a profound contribution to understanding the depth and significance of our founder’s legacy. His decision to beatify Newman in person confers a unique blessing upon the English Oratories and all who have drawn inspiration from Newman’s life and work. 

The soon-to-be Blessed John Henry Newman also has a place in the banner at the top of my blog (he is the second from the right), since I consider him a great teacher, both knowledgeable and pastoral, especially for our often difficult times.

The travelling pope

Pope Benedict XVI arrives in the United States during a previous trip abroad

Pope Benedict XVI arrives in the United States during a previous trip abroadPope John Paul II was of course the greatest travelling pontiff of all time, making 104 trips to 129 countries in his 26-year pontificate. That is more visits abroad than all the other popes combined. His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, being rather older at the start of his pontificate and of a more private nature, doesn’t come near to that, and very likely has no intention of doing so. But that doesn’t mean he’ll automatically turn down invites to come and visit a place or country. This year he has no less than five trips abroad planned.

The first trip will be a short two-day visit on 17 and 18 April to Malta, where he’ll obviously meet with local dignitaries of state and Church, and he’ll also pray at the cave where St. Paul was shipwrecked on his way to Rome, as mentioned in chapter 28 of the Acts of the Apostles.

In May, the Holy Father will be in Portugal from 11 to 14 May. He’ll visit Fatima there, the site where the Blessed Virgin appeared to three children in 1917.

The Expiatory Church of the Holy Family, the Sagrada Família, still under construction

In June he’ll go to Cyprus, in part to hand the Middle Eastern bishops the working documents of the Synod on the Middle East to be held in October.

The September trip to the United Kingdom is highly anticipated, partly because rumour has it that the pope will personally beatify the Venerable John Henry Newman, and also because of the recent document Anglicanorum Coetibus on the relations with the Anglicans. There are visits planned to sites in both England and Scotland.

The fifth trip was only recently announced: in November, the pope will travel to Spain to visit Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona. He’ll be in Santiago because of the 900th anniversary of the dedication of the basilica there, and in Barcelona he will consecrate the Sagrada Família, Antoní Gaudi’s massive church that has been under construction since 1882. That consecration Mass should be something to behold.

Over the course of each trip the pope will speak publically at various locations and I expect that a fair few of these addresses will stir up the media. I look forward to offering at least a sampling of those texts and issues here, both in English and in Dutch.

Lenten Readings Plans

Various Catholic blogs have already mentioned the readings plans that Fr. Bryan Jerabek offers here. The four different plans all offer reading material for at least the forty days of Lent, and sometimes also the Sundays and the Easter Triduum.

I intend to follow one of the plans, but I’m not entirely sure which one. The Church Fathers plan is quite demanding in sheer volume but, like the other three, it seems very interesting. Of course it would also be quite fitting to read from the Curé of Ars of Cardinal Newman.

Anyway, it’s a great initiative. Now to decide what else I can do this Lent…