“In the Catholic Church we sometimes tend to glorify the past instead of seeking God in the present”, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich has lamented.

– “The Church is very polarised”

Hollerich, the Archbishop of Luxembourg and President of COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, granted an interview to the German KNA Catholic news agency October 19 in which he gave his assessment of the state of the Catholic Church today.

“The Church is very polarised”, the cardinal admitted.

“Radical positions can always be found on the internet. Even the statements of bishops contradict each other to some extent: some are strictly in favor of something, others are definitely against it. Often there is a great confusion in which some deny the catholicity of others. I fear that this is only the beginning” of even greater turbulence in the Church, he lamented.

The cardinal attributed the turmoil above all to the fact that in wider society “we are experiencing a huge change in civilisation towards a digital culture that will affect all aspects of our humanity”.

“The Greek-Jewish culture, in which the Christian faith is also rooted, is losing intensity every day”, he warned.

“We have to burst the many bubbles of traditionalists, progressives and liberals”, the cardinal continued.

“We must not ignore the different approaches, but must endure the tension and have an open dialogue. That means: listening to one another and being Church together. For me, this includes living the gospel in everyday life and putting it into words for the people of today and tomorrow”.

As an example of a way in which the Church can adapt and reposition itself in the context of the digital transformation, Hollerich pointed to the case of young people, with whom he said “I enjoy spending time… and noticing what is changing in language, thinking and needs”.

The cardinal recounted an episode in which “a young person really wanted to talk to me. We agreed on a time – and I thought he’d come and ring the bell. He chatted with me [electronically] instead. So to him, speaking meant chatting. These are small things – but they show that a lot is changing”.

– On migrants and refugees: “We have to learn to be more human”

In his interview with KNA, Hollerich also referred to the ongoing reality of migratory and refugee movement to Europe, and admitted he was “not enthusiastic” about the focus on deportations and faster asylum procedures in the new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum which was presented September 23.

However, the cardinal said that on the migration and refugee issue he was in favour of “realpolitik”. “At the moment not much seems to be possible in Europe”, he observed, adding that “if the EU develops a common position” on human movement, “that alone is positive”.

Nonetheless, Hollerich reminded lawmakers and citizens that “basically, we have to learn to be more human” and leave aside the fearmongering that comes with inventing “images of the enemy” and “generalisations” about the phantom menaces of “asylum seekers” and “Muslims”, for example.

The cardinal admitted that in fact what worries him the most about the state of Europe today is the nationalistic division beginning to make itself felt on the continent.

“The corona crisis poses challenges for the EU. If a big second wave of the pandemic comes and we fall back into national responses, then the virus has the explosive power to smash the EU”, Hollerich warned, urging that for that reason “we have to be very careful and develop what we have in Europe for the benefit of all people”.

More stories on Novena on cardinals:

Cardinal Tagle says COVID “an opportunity to re-examine our way of life”, stop “abusing or wasting human and natural resources”

Cardinals, other global Christian leaders urge IMF and World Bank to “show courageous leadership” and cancel debts of developing countries

Vatican cardinal stresses: “Sustainability is not just a technocratic criterion. It is also a human right”

Cardinal defends Pope against ‘Fratelli tutti’ “communism” slur: Francis “doesn’t change so much as a comma” of Catholic social doctrine


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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.