The celebrated French actor Gérard Depardieu had decided to hand in his French passport after he came under furious attack from several quarters when he decided to move to Belgium to pay less tax. The celebrated actor now has a little house in the hamlet of Estaimpuis in Hainaut in Wallonia. He is only one of scores of French nationals who have settled just across the border from France to escape France’s new wealth taxes on the extremely rich.
Keeping up with changes in society, with the shifting roles of men and women everywhere you can now find fire-fighter kits for girls and baby dolls for boys. Already in 2012 the trend was set and toys continue to break out of the gender ghetto thanks to retailers willing to brush aside some hard-to-shift stereotypes.
Benedict XVI resigned as pope (February 28), becoming the first to do so since Gregory XII in 1415, and the first to do so voluntarily since Celestine V in 1294. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina showed the world a totally different pope than we have seen for ages. Again a person with humanity in his veins, loving the children and seeming to walk in the footsteps of the master teacher Jesus Christ. As 266th pope (elected on March 13) he took the name Francis, and becomes the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from the Americas, and the first pope from the Southern Hemisphere.
Pope Francis did not wait to make some changes like doing away with all the luxury around the pope. He refused to wear ermine-lined capes other popes wore. He preferred riding on a bus with other cardinals right after his election, using a Ford Focus around Rome and driving himself around the Vatican in a 1984 Renault, instead to ride in a bullet-proof Mercedes limousine. He refused to live in the Apostolic Palace, instead living in a guest home and dining in the cafeteria.
He refers to himself as “Bishop of Rome” rather than as “Supreme Pontiff” and knew he needed the blessing of the Most High. To get this blessing he asked the people in St. Peter’s Square on his election to bless him. On his public performances he uses simple language, not speaking from a hight. He has consistently used a more familiar, direct and casual way of speaking, versus the highly formal and circumlocutory tone used by previous popes. He also sends personal hand-written letters and makes personal phone calls rather than having his secretary send formal messages on his behalf.
He showed also to be ready to receive all sorts of people. He has reached out to atheists and is the first pope to use the word “gay” rather than “homosexuals” or “those suffering from same-sex attraction.” This probably got him to be named “Person of the Year” by The Advocate, the U.S. national gay and lesbian news magazine.
He has stated he intends to transform the Synod of Bishops to a decision-making body rather than a ceremonial rubber stamp. He has spoken against clericalism, versus other popes who promoted clericalism, e.g. Pope Benedict‘s “Year of the Priest”. He directed the Office of the Synod of Bishops to distribute a questionnaire to Catholic laity to understand their thoughts on marriage, contraception, divorce and same-sex marriage. He has instructed the curia and the nuncios (ambassadors) to nominate as bishops men who are merciful and pastoral, versus previous popes who directed that bishops be chosen for their doctrinal loyalty and willingness to pick public fights.
He has called for a reform in how priests are trained so they don’t become “little monsters” and he intends to decentralize the Church, de-emphasizing the role of the pope, giving more attention to the role of helping others. He has said the hierarchy should speak less about contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage, versus previous popes who specifically stated these were priorities for the Church. He has stated the Church’s priority is service to the poor. The accent is also more placed on the evangelizing aspect of Christians. He has given a new profile to the post of the Papal Almoner (the person responsible for helping the poor in Rome) and has initiated new programs of gifts and other assistance to the homeless in Rome. He invited Roman homeless people to his birthday breakfast. He has washed the feet of laity (in fact, prisoners, women and Muslims) on Holy Thursday, versus previous popes who would only wash the feet of priests. This is important because his act directly violates liturgical rules that state that only men may have their feet washed on Holy Thursday (a rule many priests and deacons also ignore worldwide).
In the first public document he wrote himself, Evangelii Gaudium, he cited as teaching authorities not just popes and councils, but national episcopal conferences, which no pope has done in the past. He has stated that national episcopal councils should be free to make doctrinal statements, while previous popes have sought to diminish the role of national episcopal conferences
He says daily Mass in a public place, for janitors and secretaries and security guards, versus other popes who only invited wealthy and influential people to daily Mass in their private chapel. He has announced he intends radical reform of the Vatican.
Egypt President Mohamed Morsi is deposed in a military coup d’état, leading to widespread violence in the North of Africa, where Muslims started to react heavier against all those who would not agree with Islamic laws.
In July, 100km altitude to be reached by Julien Rateau from Brussels in 2014, making him officially the third Belgian in space. Rateau’s friend won the flight in a competition and gave him the ticket.
Queen Fabiola of Belgium, the elderly widow of King Baudouin at the centre of a royal row over her yearly allowance, on Thursday denied she was planning to bequeath public monies to relatives and the church.
“In no way did I ever plan nor do I plan to put money from the stipend into the foundation,” she said in a rare statement after coming under heavy attack from the media, the public and politicians for allegedly creating a foundation to help her nephews and nieces and Catholic charities on her death.
Delphine Boël, who claims to be the daughter of former king Albert II, has dropped her lawsuit demanding DNA samples from King Filip and his sister, Princess Astrid. Boël is now filing suit to have the former king himself provide DNA to prove paternity, as he is no longer immune to court order. Last week a lawyer for the royal palace broke Albert II’s silence on the matter, saying that he did not recognise Boël as his daughter. At the same time, the first of a two-part documentary aired in which Boël’s mother, Sybille de Selys Longchamps, also says that Boël is the daughter of Albert II and gave details of her affair with the then prince, which she says lasted nearly 20 years.
In China we can see lots of changes and people are taken away from their living quarters to go and live miles away from their birth place and in little apartments instead of houses. Everything in the name of industrial and economic progressiveness. After 37 years, be it whit less attention than by the Americans, a Chinese spacecraft becomes the first spacecraft to “soft”-land on the Moon since 1976. Chang’e 3, carryed the Yutu rover, and is the third ever robotic rover to do research on the moon.
To the depth of the earth went James M. Buchanan, American Nobel economist (b. 1919) to become dust again. He was followed by Józef Glemp, Polish cardinal (b. 1929) in the same Winter month. (January) also German conductor and pianist (b. 1923) exchanged his live by the living to be with the dead in February. Richard Griffiths, British actor (b. 1947) died March 28.
The longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century and the only woman to have held the office, could not keep up her strong iron hand, and lost the capacity to think properly, before giving the ghost on April 8. Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1979–1990) (b. 1925) was closely followed by the first Native American who could take a strong position in the theatre world as America’s first major prima ballerina, Maria Tallchief.
Unable to compete in the 1940 Summer Olympics because of the outbreak of World War II MGM scouts could find at the Aquacade Esther Jane Williams to make her a movie star. After having stopped making films she became a successful businesswoman until her death on June 6, 2013)
Prince Friso a member of the Dutch Royal Family, who had made his choice on a woman coming from Het Gooi in the central Netherlands whereby he lost his membership of the Dutch Royal House and was no longer in the line of succession to the throne, was buried under an avalanche in Lech, Austria (17 February 2012), while skiing off piste and stayed for months in a coma. On 12 August 2013, one and a half years after the accident, Prince Friso died of complications.
The American Christian radio broadcaster, author and evangelist whose parents came from the Netherlands – his mother from Friesland, his father from Groningen, and who issued multiple failed predictions of dates for the End Times saw his life coming to an end. Family Radio had spent over US$100 million on the information campaign for Harold Camping‘s 2011 end times prediction, financed by sales and swaps of broadcast outlets. Camping taught that all churches have become apostate and thus must be abandoned.
For Belgium the number one in the picture was the Belgian theoretical physicist Professor emeritus at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) François, Baron Englert. He is the recipient of the 2013 Prince of Asturias Award in technical and scientific research, together with Peter Higgs and the CERN. He also was awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics, together with Peter Higgs for the discovery of the Higgs mechanism.
Number two the year 2013, for Belgium, may be Philippe or Filip of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who after lots of years of patience and preparation at last could step in the ring to be the king of the Belgians in a period which can become the most difficult in the short history of that tiny country. As the eldest child of King Albert II, he succeeded upon Albert’s abdication for health reasons on the 21st of July. King Philippe’s elder daughter, Princess Elisabeth, next in the line of succession was already threatened to be abducted last few months and had to receive special protection. At age 53, king Philippe is Europe’s second youngest reigning monarch, following the 46-year-old Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands who ascended the throne of the Kingdom of the Netherlands on 30 April 2013 when his mother abdicated.
2013 was the year too many cases of bullying got the press negatively. Too many children in Belgium killed themselves because of bullying. 2012 had seen adults taking their lives because they could not bear it any more. But now the underlying factor, childhood bullying had to receive more attention because of the many problematic accidents. The penalties brought in by the government against adolescent and adult bullies did not help yet, but some films and the 2013 musical Ben X, the Belgian-Dutch drama based on the novel Nothing Was All He Said by Nic Balthazar, who also directed the 2005 stage play and the 2007 film did help to make the matter discussable and a subject for debate in many groups. The film (“(I) am nothing”) inspired by the true story of a boy with autism who committed suicide because of bullying, won the Fipresci Prize at the Istanbul International Film Festival and three awards at the 31st Montreal World Film Festival: the Grand Prix des Amériques, the Prix du Public for the most popular film, and the Ecumenical Jury Prize for its exploration of ethical and social values.
Two films which got my attention and got me to see them twice were the Estonian “Klass” (Class) from 2007 and the German Die Welle (The Wave) (2009).
In Class/Klass, directed by Ilmar Raag, Kaspar, an average guy of an Estonian high-school decides to defend his bullied classmate. But his decision to protect Joosep makes that both get ridiculed for supposedly having gay feelings for each other. The war between Kasper and the informal leader of the class comes to a climax when the leader of the class forces Kaspar to fellate Joosep, at knife point, whilst the sexual act without showing the knife is photographed.
The 2008 German film directed by Dennis Gansel starring Jürgen Vogel, Frederick Lau, Jennifer Ulrich and Max Riemelt in the leads, is based on Ron Jones‘ social experiment The Third Wave. A class on autocracy brings high school teacher Rainer Wenger his experiment to demonstrate how easily the masses can be manipulated to a dangerous point where it becomes impossible to remove the negative elements from fascism. The high school teacher’s unusual experiment to demonstrate to his students what life is like under a dictatorship spins horribly out of control when he forms a social unit with a life of its own.
Preceding articles with the annual review:
- Video: Pope Francis named ‘Time’ Person of the Year for 2013
- Pope Francis I on the Holy Spirit
- Pope Francis says Catholics must become evangelisers
- God creates. What can a man create?
- Ben X Courage is everything
- Ben X (2007) Movie Info
- The Class (2007 film)
- Film: Die Welle
- The Wave (2008) “Die Welle” (original title)
- The Wave (2008 film)