Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich

New cardinal urges Francis critics to “greater spiritual freedom”

Critics of Pope Francis tend to think in “closed systems”, Luxembourg Cardinal-elect Jean-Claude Hollerich has denounced.

Driving the news

Hollerich, Archbishop of Luxembourg and President de COMECE (the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union), gave a long and detailed interview to The Tablet on current affairs in the society and the Church.

“I think it’s very dangerous to think in closed systems”, said Hollerich, one of the new cardinals named by Pope Francis September 1, and who will receive the red hat October 5.

“But it’s also very fashionable nowadays to think in these systems. You have the same in politics, it’s a phenomenon of this new civilisation, of digitisation, that is emerging”.

“So I think this resistance to the Holy Father is rooted in the past but has also some reason in the present civilisation or cultural change we are experiencing, the identitarian moment becomes more important and if you need this simple identity in order to be yourself, you feel threatened immediately”.

“Whereas if you can accept that our identities are always multiple, are also changing in time and history it’s much more easy to accept change”.

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Go deeper

The problem with the “closed systems” both populists and critics of Pope Francis rely on, Hollerich said, is that they can very quickly collapse.

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“You change a minor point and the whole statue they have erected is falling apart”, the cardinal-elect warned.

“So they cannot admit having minor changes, because otherwise then the whole system collapses”.

In contrast, Hollerich continued, Pope Francis “does not think in closed systems”, but instead “puts the Gospel on the table and then says we must all together, walk together in a synodal way and take the consequences of this Gospel”.

“I think the way of discernment of the Pope is very important, because reality is not black and white, there are many nuances in between. We have to see reality and meet God in reality”, the archbishop explained.

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Why it matters

Despite the resistance, Hollerich said the Church must make a special effort for “real dialogue” with young traditionalists, whose conservative approach to Christianity “might be the most secularised” because it is divorced from daily life.

“The only place where they met God is very often in the liturgy. So they want to preserve that place”, Hollerich said of these young traditionalists.

“And we know that if you want to go back to an encounter of God you had, and you create the exact environment, it will not happen again. Because God is bigger than the environment where we have encountered him”.

“So I think a greater spiritual freedom is needed, because people put spiritual curtains up, because they feel at ease”.

Hollerich added that “behind a certain facade” of young traditionalists “there are the same anxieties, the same hopes” as other young people, and for that reason Church leaders must make an effort to “see what do they care for, and what do they fear”.

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For the record

In his conversation with The Tablet, Hollerich also warned of the dangers of populism, both in the United Kingdom with Brexit and in wider Europe.

“The Church has a very clear standpoint. We are against populism, we are in favour of human rights, we are in favour of democracy. And democracy is in danger because civilisation is changing”, the cardinal-elect warned.

“I do not see how populism can survive with democracy, because solutions these parties present will not hold up, and will not stand the test because the situations are much more complex”.

“So it is a very, very dangerous moment in the history of democracy and if you look to history at large, the centuries of human rights and democracy are very scarce in human history… So I think the Church should have a very clear standpoint”.

On the subject of Brexit, Hollerich lamented that “if you look from abroad at what is going on in the United Kingdom, you just cannot understand it anymore”.

“What is going on? The prime minister against parliament, losing a parliamentary majority, endless discussions. A parliament that doesn’t want a no-deal Brexit, but doesn’t want a deal either. So it’s very confusing, even if you look at it with the best of intentions”.

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The cardinal-elect said he personally has “difficulties” with a no-deal exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, though he also said he respects those who think differently.

“I think [a no-deal Brexit] would be bad for the United Kingdom, it would be bad for the European Union, and it would be bad for the poorest people”, Hollerich warned.

“Because rich people can always cope. But poor people will suffer from it, and I think in politics we should centre more on the poor than the rich”.

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