The Rev. Canon Wietse van der Velde M.A.

»Read about van Pelt’s exhibition ‘Haagse Heren’on Trendbeheer

The Rev. Canon Wietse van der Velde M.A., Dean of the Metropolitan Chapter of Utrecht (of the Old-Catholic Church) and parish-priest of St. James and St. Augustine in The Hague (b. 1953)
In February 2014 the image was part of van Pelt’s exhibition ‘Haagse Heren’
»Read the report on ‘Trendbeheer’

The photo is taken in the so-called Bisschopskamer (Bishop’s room) of the rectory of the Old-Catholic parish of The Hague. The rectory is situated in the heart of the inner city of The Hague (Juffrouw Idastraat 13). Just above the Bisschopskamer – in the attic of the building –  is a chapel dating from the first half of the 17th century. This chapel (which is still in use for weekday services) dates from the period in the Dutch history – approximately between 1580 and 1795 – that the exercise of the (Roman-) Catholic religion was forbidden and the faithful had to come together in secret for celebrating the liturgy.  In the early 18th century the religious climate became more tolerant and permission was often granted – after paying huge taxes – to build churches on condition that they could not be seen from the street. So in 1722 the present day parish church was build behind the rectory and the adjoining houses. The building is in the style of Louis XIV and the most famous artists of the day were employed for creating the altar, pulpit, organ and stucco. The church counts as one of the most important monuments of the 18th century in The Hague and of the whole of The Netherlands and is the place for worship and other activities of the Old-Catholics in The Hague.

The Bisschopskamer in which the photo is taken dates in its present day appearance from the first quarter of the 18th century. Till about 1900 this room used to be the place were the Archbishops of Utrecht were lodged when visiting the parish, but also as the venue for important meetings (of especially) the Metropolitan Chapter of Utrecht. The most famous of these was the meeting on April 27th 1723 when the Chapter elected Cornelis Steenoven Archbishop of Utrecht. This election was not recognised by the Pope and was the origin of the independent existence of the Old-Catholic Church of the Netherlands.(1)

In memory of this important moment in church-history this room is nowadays used as a museum. The room is furnished with mainly 19th century furniture. At the walls hangs an important collection of paintings of parish-priests of The Hague, Archbishops of Utrecht and Bishops of Deventer from the first part of the 17th till the end of the 20th century.

The Bishop’s room

The photo of  the Rev.Wietse van der Velde  is made in the style and tradition of the painted portraits. The cope which is worn dates from the 18th century, the cross in the background from the 17th century. The beaker next to the cross was presented to the Rev. Canon Cornelis van Vlooten, parish-priest of The Hague (1853-1901) in 1893 on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

The sitter was one of the members of the commission which by order of the Bishops was responsible for the texts of the so-called Kerkboek, the present day liturgy of the Dutch Old-Catholic Church which was published in 1993.  The book in his hand is a luxery copy of this Kerkboek, which was presented to him by the bishops when this liturgy was introduced.

(1) The Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands is nowadays the “mother church” of a family of independent Catholic Churches (especially in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czechia and Poland) who are united in the Union of Utrecht of Old-Catholic Churches.

The Dutch church as an independent church originated from differences with the Pope of Rome on the authority in the church. The other churches of the Union came into being when clergy and people could not accept the dogmatization of the Papal Infallibility which was made by the First Vatican Council (1870) and sought contact with the Dutch Old-Catholic Church.  

The term “old” in her name tries to express the wish of the Old-Catholic Churches to orientate her teachings and life on the early Christian church. This does not mean that she is invariable and rigid, but that she also wishes to be open for renewal of the spiritual life of the church. She also tries to be open for the needs and questions of the people of today.

In line with the “Declaration of Utrecht” of 1889, the Old-Catholic Churches accept the seven ecumenical councils of the first millennium (which are also held by the Roman-Catholic and Orthodox Churches). They reject the infallibility and supreme jurisdiction of the Pope of Rome and certain theological opinions and practices in the Roman Catholic Church. The liturgical and sacramental life of the church stands in the line of the Western Catholic tradition.

Old-Catholic Bishops are elected by the clergy and representatives of their diocese and they govern the church in cooperation with a Synod. The obligation for clergy to lead a celibate life is abolished and in some of the dioceses women are also ordained to the sacred ministry.

Since 1931 the Old-Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht  have full communion with the Church of England and the other churches of the Anglican Communion. Since her foundation in 1948 they are active members of the World Council of Churches.

Rev. Canon Wietse van der Velde M.A.