The Nijmegen delegation travels to Rome for the canonization of Titus Brandsma

Former professor and rector magnificus Titus Brandsma will be canonized next Sunday. A delegation from Radboud University travels to Rome to attend the Eucharistic celebration led by Pope Francis. ‘Even without the term’ Catholic ‘, our university has a good, informal relationship with the Church,’ says current rector Magnificus Han van Krieken.

Former Carmelite priest, professor and rector magnificus at the Catholic University of Nijmegen Titus Brandsma (see box) will be canonized in Rome on Sunday. Pope Francis leads the Eucharistic celebration in St. Peter’s Church, where nine others are canonized in addition to Brandsma. St. Peter’s Square is expected to be full of pilgrims from all over the world. An estimated 2000 believers from the Netherlands travel to Rome.

Representatives of Radboud University also participate in the canonization. In addition to rector magnificus Han van Krieken, the Nijmegen delegation includes chairman of the board, Merel van Vroonhoven, four deans, mayor Hubert Bruls (see box), employees at the Titus Brandsma Institute and student pastor Jos Geelen.

Rector’s chain

Han van Krieken. Photo: Joeri Borst

Van Krieken says he finds it important to participate on behalf of Radboud University. “Brandsma was a prominent member of our academic community,” he says. He now gets a very special appreciation for the way in which he resisted the German occupiers during World War II. He receives that recognition not only in the Netherlands, but all over the world. ‘

‘Sometimes I wear the same chain as Brandsma’

Van Krieken says he was personally affected by Brandsma’s canonization. ‘There are a number of pictures of Brandsma wearing the principal’s chain. Sometimes I wear the same chain so I kind of follow in his footsteps. But of course I did not mean as much as he did. “

medical miracle

A miracle is attributed by the Church to people who are canonized. This is also the case with Brandsma. In 2004, an American father, Carmelite, had an aggressive form of skin cancer with metastases, but he recovered. In December 2020, a committee of doctors stated that this was medically unexplained. Subsequently, a group of theologians determined that his healing was due to the worship of Brandsma.

According to Van Krieken, a pathologist himself, such a cure does not have to be a miracle. “Every now and then you see that a person with a metastatic form of melanoma is still recovering,” he says. This immunogenic tumor often elicits an immune response. Scientists have been researching this for a long time, which eventually led to immunotherapy (a cancer treatment, ed.). From a rational point of view, therefore, it is not very surprising that someone sometimes recovers spontaneously from that disease. ‘

However, Van Krieken sees no reason not to travel to Rome, as Brandsma’s canonization is not based on a scientific basis. “We’re not going to Rome because Brandsma performed a miracle,” he says. ‘The canonization is a recognition of his life and his martyrdom during World War II. We do not deal with the criteria of the Church. The core is the person he was. ‘

‘No formal relationship with the church’

Brandsma’s canonization follows a year and a half after the bishops rejected the predicate Catholic from Radboud University. It came after a long and protracted conflict between the Dutch Episcopal Conference and the then supervisors of the Catholic University Fund. For a long time, the bishops refused to appoint many directors to the board of the foundation because they were not Catholic enough. The supervisors then went to court. He agreed with them, after which the bishops decided that the university could no longer bear the term ‘Catholic’.

Does participation in the canonization in Rome mean that the folds between university and church have been smoothed out again? ‘As management, we have always said that we respect the bishops’ decision, but that we also like to keep in touch with the Church,’ says Van Krieken. ‘The relationship has changed formally, but not informally. We are still in good contact with, among others, the Bosch Bishop Gerard de Korte. ‘

‘The formal role of the bishops in relation to the board of the foundation does not return’

According to Van Krieken, it is therefore not a problem for Radboud University to regain the bishops’ predicate. “The formal, statutory role that bishops had in relation to the Foundation Board, which is now the Board of Supervisors, has been cut and it will not return,” he says. ‘But our academic community maintains a special bond with the church and with our Catholic background.’

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