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Friday, 1 January 2010

"It is a matter of starting over from the beginning"

At Chiesa, the blog of Sandro Magister, there is an interview with Cardinal Adrianus Simonis, the emeritus Archbishop of Utrecht. Back in the 1970s, Catholics who were dismayed by the direction that had been taken by the Church in the Netherlands, were delighted by the appointments of two strongly orthodox bishops: Bishop Simonis to Rotterdam (1970) and Bishop Gijsen to Roermond (1972). Both were highly controversial in the Netherlands and Pope Paul emphasised his support for the restoration of orthodoxy in the Dutch Church by himself consecrating Bishop Gijsen, and insisting that Cardinal Alfrinks should be the first co-consecrator.

Bishop Simonis succeeded to the Archdiocese of Utrecht in 1983 (elevated to Cardinal in 1985) and resigned two years ago upon reaching the age of 75. His reflections in the interview show that it has been a long and hard road. After the virtual collapse of the Church, he witnessed the rapid growth of secularism, with the Dutch being pioneers in the legalisation of euthanasia and gay marriage, for example. He says:
I am convinced, like Bishop Punt, that the Dutch Church is truly called to be missionary. Two generations have been lost. It is a matter of starting over from the beginning, and within a culture that is indifferent to Christianity, among less than friendly media.
There seems to be a certain weariness in Cardinal Simonis and one can understand this from a man who has seen so much moral and spiritual devastation. Nevertheless, there is certainly a revival of life in the Dutch Church albeit on a small scale at the moment. The Haarlem seminary has 45 students, and I saw for myself the enthusiasm of young Dutch Catholics for solid formation. (See: "To God who gives joy to my youth")

In fact, the Cardinal himself wryly bears witness to this new growth of faith:
Q: Did you know, Your Eminence, that a short time ago in the little town near here, Drunen, I saw a hundred children come out from the Catholic church where there had been a Christmas ceremony?

A: It must be that young priest who just arrived, who's hard at work ..."
For the full interview and accompanying article by Marina Corradi, see: In Holland, There's No More Room for the Child Jesus. Or Then Again, There Is
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