Dec 13

Travel to Lithuania and Latvia — from 24 November to 8 December

On Saturday 8 December, my travel to Lithuania and Latvia came to an end, when the WizzAir Airbus A320 safely touched down on the tarmac of Eindhoven Airport (EIN). It was an interesting and inspiring trip, which started two weeks earlier on the same airport. I had some thirty meetings, in Vilnius, Kaunas and Panevezys (Lithuania), in Ludza, Jekabpils and Riga (Latvia). Once again, I say a great “thank you” to everybody whom I have met, for sharing your time and thoughts. As an inspirational endnote, I have added a picture of the original coat of arms of bishop Jonas Kauneckas of Panevėžys. The bishop himself is holding it. Because it was considered to be too different from the usual coats of arms, it was not used officially. However, to my opinion it was well designed. The motto is a challenge to all people of good faith, “Žiūrėti Jo žvilgsniu”: To see with His eyes. For a short first impression of my trip, see Facebook.

Nov 04

Conference “Women in the Roman Catholic Church of Eastern Europe”

Opposition against notions such as “feminism”, “gender” or “political correctness”, either shallow or profound, cannot be an excuse for inaction, when sensitive issues like trafficking of women, inequality, typecasting, discrimination of women, prostitution or domestic violence are being discussed. Similarly, moral indignation or feelings of moral superiority can never justify passiveness, when sins are committed against women. These were the key findings of our Communicantes conference last 3 November 2012. At castle Hernen, an audience of about twenty listened to three guests from Eastern Europe: Caritas Lithuania’s Kristina Mišinienė, Romanian journalist Márta Bodó and Sister Rebeka Anić from Croatia. Read the introduction to the conference by Communicantes President Professor Nico Schreurs and the lecture of Sister Rebeka Anic. For the work of Kristina Mišinienė, see www.anti-trafficking.lt (with pages in English language as well). Read also the announcement of the conference and some background information at http://communicantes.nl/?p=5066 (in Dutch).

Oct 19

How to Survive the Idyll?

Well, for those of you who read Dutch, I would like to draw your attention to a nicely written article by Paul Baars in the Netherlands review Pokrof. Through the eyes of the local parish priest Father Artemi, Baars vividly describes the idyllic yet harsh conditions under which people on the Russian countryside try to make ends meet. The article sums up neatly how many people in Eastern Europe, outside and inside the European Union, stay afloat economically. Paul Baars (see picture – on the right) is president of the section “Church” of the town twinning Nijmegen-Pskov (Russia). Read: Hoe een Russisch dorp overleeft. (Pokrof, 59, 4, September/October 2012.)

Sep 18

Women suffering as Christ

In the past, the idea of a likeness between the suffering of women and the suffering of Christ was not something straightforward and even today it is sometimes perceived as something offensive. After all, was it not Eve, a woman, who had opened Pandora’s box and thus brought sin, sickness, death and eternal doom over humanity? And was it not Christ, a man, who saved mankind from the very same sin, sickness, death and eternal damnation? Obviously, the ideal role model for women was the Virgin Mary, not Christ. Visitors of the exhibition “Women in the Spotlight” in the Utrecht Museum Catharijneconvent, however, will be tempted to change their mind a bit. Continue reading

Sep 14

Elections 2012 Mark the End of Dutch Christian Democracy

Voters in the Netherlands have come out on Wednesday 12 September 2012 to vote in favour of Europe, against the populism of a Geert Wilders and against the defamation of emigrants. Shocking, however, was the enormous blow dealt to the centrist Christian-democratic party. The Christian Democratic Appeal CDA lost two thirds of its seats in less than three years time and was reduced to 13 seats in the 150-member lower house. All together, Christian parties now hold 21 seats. In 1963 their number was 80. Last Wednesday, we witnessed the breakdown of Christian democratic politics in the Netherlands. Continue reading

Sep 12

God does not exist, therefore He exists

People worldwide seem to think that in the Netherlands God is dead, metaphorically speaking of course. But in spite of that, the Dutch philosopher Emanuel Rutten has come up with a new argument backing His existence. On 20 September 2012, Rutten, a logician who researched modern day arguments in favour of the existence of God, will defend his conclusions at the VU University Amsterdam. Recently however, his doctoral thesis A Critical Assessment of Contemporary Cosmological Arguments: Towards a Renewed Case for Theism became available online . Continue reading

Sep 07

Off Their Rockers

Since the turn of the century, the topics of women’s emancipation and feminism have more or less disappeared from public discourse, in church circles as well. At least, this is what happened in the Netherlands. Feminism and women’s emancipation fell victim, so to say, to their own success. In Eastern Europe, however, things are more complex, as was clearly shown at the biennial regional conference of the European Society of Woman in Theological Research that took place in Split, Croatia, from 2 to 5 September 2012.* There, it became apparent that women’s issues have not been given any priority whatsoever within the Orthodox, Protestant or Roman Catholic Churches. And what is more, they are considered with great suspicion or the study thereof is merely tolerated. Continue reading

Sep 01

“De vrouw in de katholieke kerk van Oost-Europa”

De kerk vervrouwelijkt. Al jaren is er een proces gaande van “feminisering”, waardoor steeds meer vrouwen en steeds minder mannen in de kerk actief zijn. Het verschijnsel treedt op zowel in West- als in Oost-Europa, ook in de katholieke Kerk. Deze ontwikkeling heeft bijvoorbeeld tot gevolg gehad dat het contrast tussen wat er in en wat er buiten de kerk gebeurt gaandeweg groter werd. Buiten de kerk kregen vrouwen een steeds belangrijkere en actievere maatschappelijke rol toebedeeld, terwijl daarbinnen dit proces kritisch werd en wordt bezien. Continue reading

Aug 23

Patriarch Kirill Visited Poland

Exactly 200 years after the French and 400 years after the Polish armies occupied Moscow and were subsequently chased from Russian territory, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia visited Poland. There he met with his flock and, more importantly, with the president of the Polish Roman Catholic Bishops conference Archbishop Józef Michalik of Przemyśl. In Warsaw they signed a common “pastoral” declaration calling for “dialogue, restoration of mutual trust and for rapprochement between the Russian and Polish nations in face of common Christian responsibility and the need to solve the same problems today.” Continue reading

May 21

Fighting Evil

What kind of country is Ukraine when it comes to alcohol? As a matter of fact, it is an astonishingly liberal country. The evil of alcohol abuse is allowed to roam about without much hindrance.
Alcohol abuse may well be the greatest evil in society, yet children can freely buy it, publicity is omnipresent and it is not uncommon to have a pint of beer out on the street, before midday. On festive days, parents encourage their children to drink, and this from a tender age. Beer used to be rather something for women and girls, but this is changing for the worse. Officially, drinking age is at 18 as is purchasing age, but this legislation is not being enforced. For sure, there does exist a “National Alcoholic Tradition” – see the NAT internet advertisement (pictured above on the left). Continue reading

May 09

Back in the USSR

Four days ago I returned from a trip to Ukraine. Even if this was my fifteenth or so visit since 1996, it was a great experience and it is really amazing to see how much the country has changed. Back in 1996 Ukraine was a dreary place with few colours and just a handful of cars on the streets. Probably, the country looked very much similar to what it was before the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. This situation has changed completely. Continue reading

Mar 12

Church Fiction

The library of Communicantes contains a nice collection of books, many of which date back to the Cold War era. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, they became obsolete and started a new life as historical source. Recently, however, I came across an interesting 1983 publication by the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate: The Lvov Church Council. Although it deals with a church council in 1946, the book hadn’t lost much of its relevance. Back then, seventy-odd years ago, it was decided to unite the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which was loyal to the Pope of Rome since 1596, with the Russian Orthodox Church. In Greek Catholic circles this church meeting was dubbed ‘pseudo-council’, because it was not a spontaneous popular initiative at all, but a well-orchestrated KGB-secret service operation, instigated by the communist leadership in Moscow. Continue reading