Today on Novena we begin a series gathering up some memorable quotes from the new cardinals named by Pope Francis on 1 September.
In this first installment, we focus on Cardinal-elect Jean-Claude Höllerich, S.J., Archbishop of Luxembourg and President of COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union.
1. On migrants and refugees, a new Marshall Plan for Africa
The plight of refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean is a cause of shame for Europe. Due to its geographical position, the Mediterranean is like an inland sea connecting Europe, Asia and Africa. But it has become a wall of separation made of water. It has become an immense graveyard.
Coming to our countries, migrants have become our neighbors. Love for our neighbors requires us to think about migration with the eyes of migrants: eyes that see their fear, their worries, their hunger, their desire for security and their desire for economic stability. Many do not want to leave their own country; they are forced to do so by necessity.
Migrants also have the right to remain in their homeland, to be able to lead a dignified life in their country, with their family. Love of neighbor translated into politics requires real investments so that African countries can see sustainable development.
We should not forget that Europeans received aid from the United States after the Second World War and this allowed European economies to recover. Is it not now the turn of Europeans to do the same for Africa, starting to work for fair economic structures without corruption?
2. Populisms, “dances around a golden calf”
Europe, which is losing its identity, builds bad identities, populisms, where the nation is no longer lived as a political community, but becomes a ghost of the past, a specter that drags behind it the victims of wars caused by the nationalisms of history.
Populisms want to stave off real problems by organizing dances around a golden calf. They build a false identity, denouncing enemies who are accused of all the ills of society: for example, migrants or the European Union.
Populisms bind together individuals, not in communities where the other is a nearby person, a partner in dialogue and action, but rather in groups that repeat the same slogans, which create new uniformities, which are the gateways for new totalitarianisms.
A self-referential Christianity is at risk of adopting this denial of reality and is in peril of creating dynamics that will eventually devour Christianity itself. Steve Bannon and Aleksandr Dugin are the priests of these populisms that evoke a false pseudo-religious and pseudo-mystical world, denying the heart of western theology, which is God’s love and love of neighbor.
3. Respect for the people, “antidote” to populism
Respect for the people is the antidote to populisms. Europe is composed of different peoples with different cultures who together form European civilization. The people are not a mythical identity fixed by ancestral genes, but rather a community of people who share the same culture and are called together to work for the common good.
The people is not an anonymous mass needing to be dominated: it is composed of very different people with their human experiences that make them unique. They are the subjects of human rights.
It is this profound respect for human rights that distinguishes sects from religions, totalitarianisms from democracies.
4. “Connivance” between economic and political elites
Democratic forms of government are the best safeguard for human rights. But cultural changes do not spare our parliamentary democracies in Europe. European citizens feel growing unease toward the multinationals and financial powers.
The bank crisis in Europe and the enrichment of a financial elite seem to show a connivance between economic powers and political elites.
5. “Unemployment is too high”
Democracies in Europe need stable societies. A society is stable if everyone can have a paid job that allows them to support their families. Many European citizens have the impression that the economy and finance are more interested in creating profit than in creating jobs. The unemployment rate of young people in Europe is too high in some countries.
Populisms take advantage of unemployment, hiding the real causes and presenting the migrant as the cause.
In many European Union countries the discomfort is deep. Fear of social degradation is real. If the Union fails to show young people that their future is important to them, they will become prey to populism.
6. The climate crisis, “opportunity” for Europe
Young people fear for their future in an environment that is deteriorating. They do not understand internal conference politics where all countries set themselves concrete goals, while at the national level, out of laziness and for the sake of national economic interest, they are far from achieving them.
Young people take to the streets to demonstrate in favor of environmental and climate policies, and they are right, because solidarity is intergenerational by nature. It is sad to see how a generation of materialistic and consumerist adults no longer cares about the future of their children!
The ecological challenge is an opportunity for Europe, because ideological problems are linked to the great questions of justice.
Europe has to welcome the dreams of its young people: not unrealistic dreams, but dreams that become political action.
7. “Europe must show again that it is in favor of humanity”
European politics must once again place at the center of political action the human person, who is replete with aspirations and hopes. European integration must show again that it is in favor of humanity and that it is trying to preserve peace in a world that is more dangerous than ever.
This is why our continent needs to work on its foundations. The appeal is still there to realize a Europe that takes into account its differences: differences that are an enrichment.
Reconciliation between western and central Europe is not yet realized. Dialogue among Europeans could lead to new freedom.
8. “There can be no talk of a Christian Europe unless we are willing to embrace people in need”
[Meeting migrants on Lesbos] From here the impression is that Europe has forgotten these people, and it hurts.
It would be useful to create humanitarian corridors. It would be important for the various dioceses, the Churches in Europe, Catholic associations, parishes, to organize – with the help of the Community of Sant’Egidio that already supports them- humanitarian corridors to give these people a new opportunity, to offer the happiness and wellbeing we enjoy here in Europe. And to show that the Church in Europe enters into solidarity with the poor, that we care for them, that they are important to us.
We can no longer speak of a Christian Europe if we are not willing to welcome the migrants and the poor.
There can be no talk of Christian culture, of a Christian Europe, unless we are willing to embrace people in need.