Cardinal in extensive interview: Synodality gives the Church a way of making if she did not have one before

"We must become more humble"

After the end of the Prague meeting, the General Relator of the World Synod, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, pleads for a change of perspective in the European Church. In an interview with DOMRADIO.DE he also looks at the role of Germany.

DOMRADIO.DE: You have just finished the "European leg" in Prague. There are different opinions between East and West, North and South. How did you experience these tensions?

Jean-Claude Cardinal Hollerich (General Relator of the World Synod and Archbishop of Luxembourg): Tensions are normal in the Church. One should not be surprised by tensions. There are also tensions within each individual Church, not to mention the German Church. So tensions are normal.

But we were also able to experience the communion, the community of the Church. We appreciated each other and listened to each other. That is also very important. We do not represent opinions that we consider to be absolute, but we are in dialogue, we listen. And listening can also move something in one's own heart, change something. And I think it was the first time that we were able to speak so freely in Europe and that everyone was able to present his or her view and was heard by the others with respect.

Jean-Claude Cardinal Hollerich

"It was good for the German delegation to see the diversity of opinions."

DOMRADIO.DE: You addressed Germany. From your subjective point of view, what is the role that the Germans played at the meeting in Prague?

Hollerich: The German Church naturally tried to present the Synodal Path. Some countries discovered common ground, others were quite shocked. But I think it did the German delegation good to see the diversity of opinions; that we are in such a situation and that we have to walk together. Personally, I don't want to cower. But one should calmly go the way. And if it comes from the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit will bring it through.

DOMRADIO.DE: One of the really pressing issues is the role of women in the Church. It is well known that German voices would like to see women ordained. Pope Francis has clearly rejected this request. Doesn't the Synod in Rome then bring together two different positions that are not compatible with each other?

Hollerich: The Synod in Rome is about synodality. It is not about women's ordination. That is to say, we are discussing how we can make the Church more synodal at local, diocesan, national and also international level. All the baptised have something to say. I believe that the Holy Spirit works in all the baptised.

If this synodality comes through, there may be other decisions to be made in the future. We will then have a way of making decisions in the church. This will always take time. The synodal process takes time, but it can make it so that everyone is behind it. And that is very important. All the baptised have a role in the church. But which one? Opinions differ on that.

DOMRADIO.DE: That means that those who are now expecting the great reforms have a wrong expectation management?

Hollerich: Cardinal Grech and I have already written a letter to emphasise once again what the theme of the Synod is. The Synod will go over this theme: Synodality. How can synodality be lived in the Church? At all levels from the parish to the universal Church. Of course, there are also other topics that resonate or are tangential to the theme of the Synod. And as such, they are also taken seriously.

Jean-Claude Cardinal Hollerich

"It is not a Synod on the ordination of women, nor is it a Synod on homosexuality."

But it is not a synod on women's ordination, nor a synod on homosexuality. It is a synod on synodality, on church, communion, participation and mission, mission. If we experience a constitution of the church there, then we know how to address other problems. That can then also happen. Whereby it must always be said that the Europeans cannot determine everything. We are a large world Church and Europe is a very small group. We have to become more modest as a Church.

DOMRADIO.DE: You are also taking part in the other continental meetings, for example the one that will start in a few days in the Middle East. What do you expect from the other continents? Are they the same wishes, the same issues that are pressing there? Or what do we not understand from our purely European perspective?

Hollerich: When I will be in the Middle East now, it is important to know that the patriarchates of these ancient churches also have synodal structures - much more than the Roman Church. The first thing to do is to listen: How is this synodality lived out? Is it expandable? What is perhaps missing? What can we learn from this experience?

And then also the Church in Asia and Latin America, who speak from their situation, from their concrete experience. Afterwards, all the experiences will come together in Rome. Then the material will also be gathered to speak about a discernment of spirits. This will be a very spiritual Synod. It will begin with an ecumenical Taizé prayer in St Peter's Square, then three days of retreats and only then the deliberations.

The Pope has already introduced the Synod. We also practised this in Prague, that after a few presentations of opinions there is a time of silence, of prayer, where you can digest the whole thing and process it in your own heart in this way. That was also very much appreciated. The spiritual conversation as a way of dealing with each other. And I think this kind of spiritual conversation saved the meeting in Prague from evil. Because one could listen to the other in prayer and then not slam the door in his face. That would be the wrong solution.

We need time. The Holy Spirit can work very quickly but we mostly need time to understand, to comprehend and to perceive the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and in the world.

Jean-Claude Cardinal Hollerich

"I believe that the Synod on Synodality, where baptism is the centre, can become a new ecumenical springtime."

DOMRADIO.DE: You mentioned the Taizé prayer with which the Synod of Bishops in Rome will open in autumn. What kind of sign is that? Why is such an important Catholic meeting being opened with an ecumenical ritual?

Hollerich: The basis of synodality is being baptised. We Catholics are not the only baptised people in this world. There are so many other Christians who also experience the grace of baptism, and we are not complete without them. So the Pope has asked them to pray with us and for us.

And I also believe that the Synod, where baptism is the centre, can become a new ecumenical springtime. So far, we have put communion at the centre, that's where we get theological problems, that's where we can't go any further. Let us change our perspective and look at the common treasure of baptism!

What the Pope has been able to do in South Sudan with the Anglican Church, with the Scottish Church, is great. It shows a new ecumenism, how we as Christians can serve the world together.