The newly-retired Bishop of Vac in Hungary, Miklos Beer, has urged the Church to find “a new voice”: to “shift the emphasis” away from the “trap” of the “clerical Church structure”.

Driving the news

Beer was speaking in an interview published Monday in HVG.

The bishop, who at 75 resigned for age reasons earlier this month, recalled that the number of priestly ordinations in the worldwide Church “has fallen drastically” over the past twenty years.

Particularly in the Diocese of Vac, where vocations have plunged by a quarter.


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The intrigue

“The centralized episcopal ministry in which everything is organized by the bishop… should be forgotten”, said Beer, 75.

The now-retired prelate said “it doesn’t make sense” to centre everything on the model of a priest being responsible for multiple parishes at a time.

That kind of pastor is constantly on the move from early morning to evening, and thus is “present everywhere, but nowhere present”, lamented Beer.

Hence the need to find local lay Church leaders and to organise the Church’s liturgical and social activities “a little more freely”, affirmed the bishop.

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One level deeper

Beer also spoke in the interview about what he sees are the “greatest challenges facing Hungarian society today”: the care of “homeless people, drug users, people with intellectual disabilities [and] Roma people”.

The bishop affirmed that the Church should take “much greater responsibility” for these groups of people.

“Pope Francis said we need shepherds who smell like the sheep and who understand people’s problems”, Beer affirmed, adding that the Church needs to learn to speak “a new language” more readily understood by non-Churchgoers.

“Are we just talking or are we really saying something?”, asked Beer.

“We priests are talking but if no one understands or cares about Church jargon, then what’s the point?”, he added.

“We need a new language, we really need to understand the real problems, talk about them and try to help people according to our Christian values”, the bishop explained.

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For the record

Pressed for how he sees the complicated situation of Hungarian politics today, Beer said he always refers to the example of Pope Francis, whom he said looks at the problems of humanity from God’s perspective, and not from any partisan divide.

“The division of right and left imposed by politics prevents sober dialogue and thinking”, warned the bishop.

Beer has long been a critic of ultranationalist Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, having demonstrated on occasion against Orban’s repressive policies against refugees, Roma, the homeless and migrant workers.

The bishop admitted that before the 2018 elections he was even pressured into silence by politicians pushing for Orban’s re-election.

But Beer reminded Orban that “freedom of expression is a basic requirement of democracy. Everywhere interests clash. Not to listen to the other, this is human weakness”.

The bishop also rejected Orban’s ultranationalism, saying that if nationalism means “not being interested in what is happening in other parts of the world, it is a political point of view – but then we should not say that this is a Christian point of view”.

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