First Sunday – the Dutch cardinals in Rome

simonis romeOn the first Sunday of the sede vacante the two Dutch cardinals were already in Rome for several days, and both offered Mass in the eternal city. Cardinal Eijk did so in the Basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle, where he gave his homily in Italian about the day’s Gospel reading.

Cardinal Simonis (pictured) was at the Santa Maria dell’Anima, where the only Dutch Pope’s mortal remains lie. Utrecht-born Adrian VI was Pope from 1522 to 1523. At that church, Cardinal Simonis was accepted into the Guild of the same name, which is tasked with the pastoral care of the German-speaking pilgrims in Rome as well as the Pontifical Institute of the same name and the German Pontifical College. Cardinal Simonis follows in the footsteps of Dutch priest Fr. Antoine Bodar and the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, among others. The Guild’s rector, Fr. Franz Xaver Brandmayr, gave the homily, while Cardinal Simonis concelebrated.

Today, both Dutch cardinals are expected to take part in the first and second General Congregations that will lead up to the conclave. The assembled cardinals may decide upon a start date for the conclave, although there are many who have expressed the desire for more time to get to know each other. As South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier said, although cardinals have een seeing each other more often during the pontificate of Benedict XVI, “[t]hat doesn’t mean I still don’t have to look up on Google” who is who. It is said that the vast majority of cardinals electors are already in Rome, with the remainder mostly arriving this week. Of the 115 electors, 65, including Cardinal Eijk, will be participating in their first conclave. That is a marked difference with the 2005 conclave, when only two cardinals, Baum and Ratzinger, had participated in a conclave before.

Photo credit: Christian van der Heijden

Cardinal Watch: Cardinal Aponte Martínez passes away

The only cardinal that the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico has ever known, Luis Aponte Martínez, passed away yesterday at the age of 89.

Born in a large family in 1922 in the town of Lajas, Luis Aponte Martínez showed a deep religious devotion from an early age. This no doubt contributed to his vocation to the priesthood. He studied at Puerto Rico’s San Juan seminary and at the Seminary of Saint John in Boston. In 1950, he was ordained to the priesthood.

Father Aponte Martínez served as secretary to the curia of the Diocese of Ponce and as parish priest in that same diocese. In 1960, he became the first native Puerto Rican bishop, as he was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Ponce and titular bishop of Lares. Three years later, Bishop Aponte Martínez became coadjutor bishop of Ponce, and succeeded Bishop James McManus in November of 1963.

Bishop Aponte Martínez would not stay in Ponce for very long. Less than a year later he was appointed as Archbishop of San Juan, a position he would hold for no less than 35 years, retiring in 1999.

Archbishop Aponte Martínez was created a cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1973 with the tile of Santa Maria Madre della Provvidenza a Monte Verde. He was one of the longest-surviving cardinals created by Paul VI and participating in both conclaves of 1978. The only others who can claim the same are Cardinals Paolo Arns, William Baum, Eugênio Sales and Pope Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Aponte Martínez played an important pastoral role on the entire island of Puerto Rico, often speaking out strongly on all sorts of moral issues, and criticising government programs of birth control and sterilisation. One of his most notable denouncements was that of the homosexual lifestyle of pop singer Ricky Martin.

The body of the cardinal is taken to the various churches that played an important part in his life, before his burial at the cathedral in San Juan on Monday.

The College of Cardinals in now 210 strong.