PM signs Pope's condolences, urges dialogue

4th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

4 April 2005, AMSTERDAM — Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende signed the condolence register for Pope John Paul II in The Hague on Monday, but he was one of the few people who bothered to do so.

4 April 2005

AMSTERDAM — Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende signed the condolence register for Pope John Paul II in The Hague on Monday, but he was one of the few people who bothered to do so.

Balkenende arrived at the nunciature at midday and signed the register on behalf of the Dutch government. He also spoke with the papal ambassador (nuncio) in the Netherlands, Frenchman Monsignor François Bacqué.

The Christian Democrat CDA leader also spoke with the Polish ambassador, who had arrived at the nunciature shortly before him. Balkenende remained inside the building for about 10 minutes.

Balkenende said he was thankful for all that the Pope had achieved: "He encouraged and gave the stimulus to enter into dialogue with others, he fought against poverty and oppression".

He also said the Pope had gone against the flow, placing his neck out for change. "We can also see that in Poland in reaction to his death," he said.

The prime minister was implicitly referring to the Polish-born Pope's encouragement of the Solidarity union movement that led to the fall of communism in the Eastern European country.

Balkenende said it was important that dialogue continues, asserting that it was an issue of values. He hopes the new Pope will also encourage and stimulate other people into discussion.

Balkenende will represent the Netherlands at the funeral, the Government Information Service (RVD) confirmed.

The announcement came after the Vatican said on Monday the funeral will be held in Rome at 10am on Friday. The Pope's body will lie in state in St Peter's Basilica from Monday night until Friday morning, with the church staying open late into the night.

Cardinals will gather in 15 to 20 days to vote for a new Pope.

Meanwhile, just three people were waiting at the nunciature when it opened at 10am and a small number of people were seen at the embassy throughout the day. Those who did sign the register not only wrote their name, but also a short note. Various ambassadors were also signing the register.

But it was primarily women opting to offer a condolence note. One woman wrote: "Rest gently. Think of us from heaven". A 75-year-old woman who had met the Pope several times in Rome said John Paul II was a saint. She wrote in Italian: "Thank you Holy Father".

A middle-aged man said a "great leader had left us" and despite asserting that "we will continue to pray for him", he hoped that the new Pope would show more warmth and not only outline Catholic Church doctrine as he saw it.

But Nuncio Bacqué said in contrast the Pope "always listened very attentively and with much love". As the pontiff's representative, Bacqué met the pontiff twice per year to inform him of the situation in the Netherlands.

The nunciature is offering the public the opportunity to sign the condolence register three days this week, starting from Monday. The embassy at Carnegielaan 5 is open until Wednesday from 10am to 1pm and from 2-5pm.

Nuncio Bacqué will hold a commemorative mass with Dutch bishops in The Hague next Tuesday (12 April). The requiem mass will be held at 6pm in the church of the St. Paschalis Baylon on the Wassenaarseweg in The Hague.

Dutch florists in Rome are busily making a floral piece for the Pope. The design is a cushion of sorts, red in colour with a ribbon. It is hoped the piece will be placed with the Pope's coffin.

Public broadcaster KRO will broadcast the funeral live on Friday. The service will be televised on Nederland 1.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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