With respect to the discord taking hold in the EU over the coronavirus, “the politicians are falling short”, the President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, has denounced.

– “I fully understand that Spain and Italy are outraged”

“I fully understand that Spain and Italy are outraged by the attitude of the politicians of Northern Europe”, Hollerich, who is also Archbishop of Luxembourg, denounced in an interview April 9.

The cardinal continued by warning that in aid of the EU countries worst-hit by COVID-19, such as Spain, Italy and France, “more is needed than just occasional helps” on the part of Brussels.

“Great initiatives of solidarity are also required”, Hollerich warned the northern eurozone states.

“We know that all the great epidemics in the world have left deep traces in the collective cultural memory”, the cardinal went on.

“I’m sure that the current pandemic will also leave a deep mark on the collective memory”, the prelate cautioned.

He added that “if the European Union doesn’t show more solidarity, people will give up on it and, in addition, they’ll feel that European solidarity is just a beautiful word, but nothing more”.

“If the countries of the north [of Europe] don’t accept sharing – both now during the crisis and, later, to relaunch the economy – then they haven’t understood what the European Union means”, Hollerich deplored.

– “Right now Lesbos is a terrible wound for the EU”

The Luxembourger cardinal also referred in his latest interview to the desperate situation of refugees in the camps on the Greek islands, where overcrowding, lack of medical care and unsanitary conditions have created the perfect storm for the coronavirus.

“Right now Lesbos [one of the Greek islands] is a terrible wound for the European Union and for all the people who believe in its ideals and values”, Hollerich deplored.

“Tens of thousands of people live crowded into camps built for far fewer people, with catastrophic hygiene conditions”, the prelate continued.

He deplored that “if the coronavirus enters these camps, the refugees will fall like flies, in Europe. In Europe. In this Europe that talks non-stop about human rights. In Europe“.

– “I don’t believe in a vengeful God at all”

With respect to the lessons the world can and should learn from COVID-19, Hollerich first addressed the point of those priests, bishops and cardinals who still believe the coronavirus is God’s punishment.

That of a vengeful god who sent the world a plague “is an attitude that comes from the Old Testament. I identify with the New Testament”, the cardinal senteced.

“I believe that God sent His Son to heal us from sin. My image of God is that of the merciful God, who always has open arms, who suffers from our sorrows. I don’t believe in a vengeful God at all”, Hollerich insisted.

“And, in any case, there are so many innocents who die and so many sinners who escape death… Furthermore, what we do know is that we are all sinners and that, nevertheless, God does not reject us; on the contrary He loves us. How, then, can one say that the sin of the other is greater than mine?”

– “Our unbridled consumerism has to be stopped; we can’t continue like this”

On the subject of other lessons to take away from COVID-19, “if we’re intelligent, we have to conclude that we must change our lives”, Hollerich explained.

“Sometimes we live our Christian faith from custom: we go to Mass, because you have to go to Mass.

“But do we really live in Mass the mystery of Christ’s Passover, of his death and of his Resurrection? I think [the coronavirus] is a call to Christians to live more deeply the core of our faith”, the cardinal said.

Furthermore, on the social level too “there are also many things that must change” in the wake of COVID-19, Hollerich went on.

“We have succumbed to a consumerist and individualistic society”, the cardinal said, but now “we’re seeing that individuals alone are not capable of coping in times of crisis. We need solidarity structures”.

Also, “the unbridled consumerism we live has to be stopped; we can’t continue like this”, Hollerich stressed.

In this time of coronavirus, “we’re seeing how happiness does not lie in consumption”, he insisted.

“Furthermore, a less consumerist world, with less luxury and waste on our part, can help our brothers in the world’s poorest countries.

“I think there is also a need for a more local economy, in which the global and the local come together. Therefore, a transformation is needed and I hope that this crisis, which is a true crisis, will allow us to change”.

– Learn lessons from COVID-19 to face climate change “catastrophe… in the near future”

One final lesson Cardinal Hollerich drew out of COVID-19 was a warning for the future on the devastating effects that await us with respect to global warming.

“The crisis in itself is an evil and a terrible evil, because there are people who are dying and many people who are suffering. But we also know that life is reborn from the ashes”, the cardinal explained.

“We can and should draw lessons from this tragedy, which perhaps allow us to glimpse the catastrophe that we could experience in the near future, especially that caused by climate change, which we are not taking seriously. We have to change our lives”, Hollerich warned.

More on Novena on EU tension over the coronavirus:

Expressing “closeness and solidarity” to coronavirus-hit Spain, German Bishops’ head shows up “pettiness” of Chancellor Merkel

Churches push Brussels for “concrete expressions of our shared European responsibility” for the coronavirus

On the coronavirus, Church development network urges Brussels: “Now is the time for Europewide solidarity”


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.