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

Feb 21

Holocaust 2: Too Tenderly

This post discusses the way in which some scholars deal with the issue of the Roman Catholic Church and the holocaust between 1941 and 1945.
It has been said that Pope Pius XII was an anti-Semite, that he did not care for the plight of the Jews, that he was not a decisive pope, or that he did not speak out enough on behalf of the persecuted Jews. On the contrary, scholars, Roman Catholics and non-believers say that Pope Pius XII did exactly what was needed and possible in those days of war and destruction. Personally, I don’t think that this Pope was an anti-Semite or that he was insensitive, but if we look at how the Roman Catholic Church acted and reacted to the holocaust at the local level, it is not so very clear how Pius XII managed his Church during WWII. Sometimes authors rather leave difficult questions like these aside. Continue reading

Feb 09

A Blessed Euro 2012

The European Football Championship “Euro 2012” kicks off on 8 June 2012 with Poland-Greece at the National Stadium in Warsaw and finishes on 1 July at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. Matches will be played in Poland and in Ukraine. Church circles as well have taken vivid interest in the event that will draw crowds of football fans to the cities of Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv and Lviv in Ukraine and Gdansk, Poznan, Warsaw en Wroclaw in Poland. Continue reading

Feb 02

Holocaust 1: Half-Truth or Open Lie

Last Summer in Lviv, by chance, I ran into Marco Carynnyk, a Canadian citizen of Ukrainian descent. Marco and I, we quickly discovered, share a common interest: the holocaust in Eastern Europe. A while ago he send me his very interesting article “Foes of our rebirth: Ukrainian nationalist discussions about Jews, 1929-1947” (read abstract). I was surprised. Actually, Marco Carynnyk is one of the few nationals or emigrants from Eastern Europe I have met or read, who study the recent history of their forefathers without embellishments or excuses. Continue reading

Dec 20

Christmas 2011

Why actually God came to live among us? At Christmas, God shakes hands with mankind, saying that life is good, in spite of sorrow, pain, war and crisis. But that’s not all! God shakes hands with all mankind and softly pulls it towards Him. Similarly, we must try to reach out to our fellow man and make this world a better place, in all things, big and small, for ourselves and for others. For example: we must always try see the good in other people and try to make their life more enjoyable; and on a more global scale: war must end; tears must be wiped away; the hungry must be fed. And if we do well, we come closer to God and God will reveal Himself in all things, big and small. Continue reading

Dec 20

Abuse of Minors in the Netherlands

‘The Church knew about abuse, its policy failed.’ It is one of the conclusions in a detailed and well-researched report of the Deetman Commission about sexual abuse of minors in the Dutch Roman Catholic Church from 1945 to 2010. On Friday 16 December 2011 the independent commission of inquiry presented its findings.(1) Since WW II about 10 to 20 thousand minors fell victim to various degrees of sexual abuse by some 800 members of the clergy, members of orders and congregations, or lay workers. The commission started its work in 2010 with the former Minister of Education Wim Deetman as its president. Researchers had unlimited access to church archives.(2) Continue reading

Nov 27

Communicantes Conference ‘Churches in Ukraine’

The conference ‘Churches in Ukraine’ was held on 26 November 2011 at the picturesque Hernen Castle. Four key note speakers had been invited. Dr. Heleen Zorgdrager, who is visiting professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv since 2005, and Ukrainian nationals Father Roman Fihas MA,  drs. Julia Hoppenbrouwers-Nagornyak and  Mariana Kavinska MA demonstrated their intimate knowledge of Church in Ukraine. Furthermore, Professor Nico Schreurs, president of the Foundation Communicantes, spoke about the history and mission of the foundation. Editor-in-chief Father Dolf Langerhuizen introduced the audience to the review Pokrof. The conference ‘Churches in Ukraine’ was organised by the Foundation Communicantes and the review Pokrof, and was hosted by the Bredius Foundation. It is the aim of the Bredius Foundation to enhance knowledge of Byzantine culture among scholars and the general public. Continue reading

Nov 23

Church Goers More Altruistic

Every two years The Netherlands Institute for Social Research ¦ SCP takes the temperature of Dutch society. How do the Dutch think about themselves? Are they happy? How do they see the future? How do they spend their free time? Are they religious? What is the quality of life? The outcomes sometimes seem contradictory. On average Dutch men and women feel quite happy. They have money to spend, and will see old age, but in the same time a mere 25 percent of the population is optimistic about the future; 60 percent has serious worries. While people who go to church more often are more socially active, Church membership is down. Continue reading

Nov 08

Germanus Incredibilis

The Incredible German. No, I am sorry, this is not an entry about pope Benedict XVI. This posting deals with the German Jesuit Father Athanasius Kircher (1601/1602–1680), a famous 17th century scholar, whose intellectual biography was recently published: A Study of the Life and Works of Athanasius Kircher, ‘Germanus Incredibilis’. It is a good opportunity for me to let you in on one of my intellectual interests. Continue reading

Oct 13

The Market for Sexual Goods and Services

In June 2011 I met with the highly motivated staff and volunteers of the programme “Aid to Victims of Prostitution and Human Trafficking” of Caritas Lithuania. This Roman Catholic organisation provides assistance to (mostly) women who have become victim of prostitution and of human trafficking, in the country itself or abroad. If they wish, clients receive psychological, judicial or practical assistance so they may kick-start a new life. Continue reading