The COVID-19 crisis “is nothing compared to the difficulties that will be caused by climate change”, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich has warned.
– “Don’t continue the economy as usual”
Hollerich, the Archbishop of Luxembourg and president of COMECE – the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union – sounded the alarm in a May 25 interview with the Nederlands Dagblad and La Croix, and cautioned that “this catastrophe will not be the last in a globalised world”.
To lessen the impact of future pandemics in an increasingly interconnected world, Hollerich pleaded with countries to put into practice the lessons learned during coronavirus lockdowns.
“This crisis has given us time to think. This offers us the opportunity to make ecological choices and not to continue the economy as usual”, the cardinal reflected.
But although a ‘green transition’ is needed in Europe and beyond, Hollerich urged governments to be conscious of the effects of that shift on workers and families.
“It is necessary to think about the social aspect”, he reflected.
“If workers lose their jobs due to ecological measures, they will resist. The common good must be respected. With vision and courage it is possible to make progress on both fronts”.
– “We need European empathy”
Another issue Hollerich spoke to in his interview with the Nederlands Dagblad and La Croix was that of European unity, which he said depends now more than ever, during the pandemic and after, on the degree of solidarity that countries on the continent can show with each other.
In the first weeks of the virus crisis, “Europe was completely absent”, the cardinal lamented.
“All of the countries thought of themselves and closed their borders. The image of Europe has suffered greatly from this. The northern countries initially watched silently how Italians died, I read in a newspaper comment. That really affected me”, he added.
Hollerich urged that “we need European empathy. It is not Italians, Spaniards or French who are suffering, but our brothers and sisters”.
The cardinal welcomed as a “step in the right direction” in terms of lessening that ongoing suffering in southern Europe the proposal of joint EU loans to fund the virus recovery.
“All countries must understand that it is not national egoism but solidarity that which serves their interest”, Hollerich explained, adding that “I am glad that I hear more and more that we need to act ‘more jointly’. This is necessary in order to provide an adequate European response to the crisis”.
– “Without solidarity, the risk of populists coming to power is all the greater”
But despite that positive noise on the need for greater European solidarity, according to Hollerich there’s still a danger of countries falling into the hands of anti-EU sceptics who take advantage of the “unreal and baseless” fears, and scapegoating, that surge in times of crises.
“Suppose the right-wing politician Matteo Salvini becomes Prime Minister of Italy”, the cardinal hypothesised.
“We can’t put our money in his hands. But without solidarity between countries, the risk of populists coming to power is all the greater, so we have to act”.
– Concern about “concentration camps” for refugees on EU borders
Along with the need for greater cohesion among the countries of the bloc, Hollerich also stressed the need for the EU to tackle its other great blind-spot: the plight of the migrants on its borders.
“We must respect human rights, the right to asylum. We must guarantee life. And we must not accept the creation of concentration camps at our external borders”, the cardinal pleaded.
“Europe needs ideals, but if these disappear, why should we go even further with European integration?
“In our days, people drown off the coast of Malta, others die on the Greek border. For me that has nothing to do with the European ideal”, Hollerich warned.
– Warning to Catholics against a “consumerist form of religion”
One final point Hollerich addressed in his interview was what Christians must learn from lockdowns and the temporary deprivation of physical community life.
“I think we Catholics should put behind us our consumerist form of religion. We still see the sacraments too much as personal piety, as if we can consume the grace of God”, the cardinal said.
“This pandemic shows that we need the church as a community, as the body of Christ, also in helping the poor.
“How can we educate our children so that they do not grow up as religious consumers?
“And corona shows us how vulnerable we are, and teaches us to our lives through trust and gratitude to God”, Hollerich concluded.