VATICAN RETURNS PIECE OF HISTORY TO DUTCH ROYALS
Pope Francis this morning welcomed King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, accompanied by his wife, Queen Máxima, on the penultimate day of their visit to Italy. As is customary with leaders, the sovereigns then met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.
The papal audience lasted about 35 minutes and, according to the media present at the encounter, was more than amiable as Queen Maximia was born, like Pope Francis, in Buenos Aires, thus the two could converse in their native Spanish
Among the gifts the royals gave to the Holy Father were Dutch tulips, with Queen Maxima noting they would be planted in the Vatican gardens and are good for more than just Easter.
Dutch flowers growers traditionally provide the plants, flowers and shrubs for the Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square.
The Pope gifted the royals a medallion depicting St. Martin of Tours, known for dividing his cloak to give to a poor man. Francis also gave them the customary gift of copies of his environmental encyclical Laudato si, and two Exhortations, “Amoris Laetitia” and “Evangelii Gaudium,” and his Message for the 2017 World Day of Peace.
During the meeting today with the Dutch Royals the Vatican turned over what is known as the baton (stick, also called scepter) of William of Orange. This is a unique icon in the story of the Dutch state and the nation. The baton bears the coat of arms of William of Orange. It is believed there are no other copies.
The baton was given by William of Orange to a Dutch commander who participated in the battle of Mookerheyde 1574. William’s brother, Luigi of Nassau, waved the baton/ scepter during the battle of Mookerheyde as a general of the Dutch insurrectionists. After they lost, the baton came into the hands of a Spanish general and then after having been given to a general of the Jesuits, today, June 22 it was returned into the hands of William Alexander of Orange.
A note from the museum that will host the baton next year said, “the turning over of the baton represents a witness to reconciliation of the current union between the two countries and religions. It is also a symbol of the long paths that the Roman Catholic Church and the kingdom of the Netherlands have traveled on, fom past rivalries and wars, to today’s reciprocal respect and promotion of peace and human rights.
This special relic will be displayed from April 27 to the end of October 2018 at the National Military Museum in Soesterberg in an exhibit on William of Orange.
POPE FRANCIS GREETS ROACO ON ITS 90TH PLENARY
Pope Francis this morning addressed Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches and all those gathered in Rome for the 90th Plenary Session of ROACO (Reunion of Aid Agencies to the Oriental Churches).
He renewed his “gratitude for the work and the constant effort of charity and solidarity guaranteed since 1968 to the Churches, Eastern and Latin, of the territories entrusted to the competence of the Congregation for Oriental Churches: you support the pastoral, educational and welfare activities and help meet their urgent needs, also thanks to the work of the Pontifical Representatives, whom I also have the pleasure of greeting. Through the Custos I greet and bless the Franciscan Friars of the Custody who have started to celebrate the eighth centenary of their presence in the Holy Land.”
Francis noted that,” the Congregation for the Oriental Churches is celebrating its centenary, a long period during which it has assisted the Supreme Pontiffs – who had been Prefects until 1967 – in their solicitude for all the Churches. There have been decades of dramatic events: Eastern Churches have often been overwhelmed by terrible waves of persecution and suffering, both in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Major migrations have weakened its presence in the territories where they had flourished for centuries. Now, thanks to God, some of them have returned to freedom after the painful period of the totalitarian regimes, but others, especially in Syria, Iraq and Egypt, see their children suffer as a result of the ongoing war and the senseless violence perpetrated by fundamentalist terrorism.”
Pope Francis thanked congregation staff and ROACO members for their constant work of charity and solidarity over the past half century in support of Latin and Eastern-rite communities under the care of the Congregation for Oriental Churches.
He highlighted the persecution and emigration suffered by these Churches of the Middle East, as well as in Eastern Europe, saying they have often suffered from “terrible waves of persecution and pain.” Pope Francis said “emigration has also significantly weakened the presence of these Churches in places where they flourished for centuries.” Freedom has now returned to some of those regions, but others, particularly in Syria, Iraq and Egypt, are still devastated by “wars and absurd violence perpetrated by fundamentalist terrorism.” These experiences are a source of both suffering and salvation, he said, as we experience the Cross of Christ.”
The plenary members were reflecting on the current situation in the countries where ROACO is present, and they also reflected on what the Pope called, “the important issue of the initial formation of seminarians and the ongoing formation of priests. We are aware of the radical nature of the choice expressed by many of them, and the heroism of their testimony of dedication alongside their often sorely tried communities. But we are also aware of the temptations that one may encounter, such as the search for a social status attributed to the consecrated in some geographical areas, or a way of exercising the role of guide following criteria of human affirmation or according to patterns of culture and the environment.”
In concluding, the Holy Father said, “And let us not forget that even today in the East, Christians – be they Catholics, Orthodox, or Protestants – shed their blood as a seal of their witness. May oriental believers, if forced to emigrate, be welcomed in the places where they arrive, and continue to live according to their own ecclesial tradition. In this way your work, dear representatives of the Agencies, will be a bridge between the West and the East, both in the countries of origin and in those you yourselves come from.”