The cardinal creation of Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ, Archbishop of Luxembourg and President of COMECE.
Pope Francis wants to set the course for his successor so closely that the conclave cannot help but elect one of his crown princes. There are several of them, since the Argentine Pope is clear and unequivocal in his objectives, but also erratic and capricious due to his character. That's why new names keep popping up in his favor, while others don't resign because of it. Despite all the imponderables of a conclave, he not only wants to expand the circle of those who are committed to him but apparently also increase the chances of success. The Vaticanist Sandro Magister recently drew attention to a new name in papal favor.
“On the list of cardinals Francis would like to see succeed him, a new name has quickly jumped to the top. It is Jesuit Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, Archbishop of Luxembourg.”
Cardinal Hollerich would combine characteristics of the two very different recent popes in a remarkable way. He comes like Benedict XVI. from the German-speaking area and, like Francis, is a Jesuit.
However, the latter is also the main obstacle, which a priori speaks more against than for him as a promising candidate. While Magister considers this hurdle “not necessarily insurmountable”, it is very unlikely that the papal electors will put two Jesuits in a row on the throne of Peter. Overall, Magister's assessment seems a bit too benevolent, but the punchline follows at the end. Let's hear the Vaticanist himself.
The Missionary from Japan
Hollerich's "only limitations would be his relatively young age, 64, and that he is a Jesuit. But these limitations are not necessarily insurmountable."
"In terms of age, Hollerich is just a year away from the other frontrunner dear to Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle, Prefect of Propaganda Fide, and six years, so not much, from the most recognized of the alternative candidates, the Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest. And as for his membership of the Society of Jesus, he has hitherto shown the best and least partisan sides of it, the most fascinating, especially for those twenty-seven years of missionary work in Japan, at the very frontiers of the faith.
Magister attests Cardinal Hollerich to speak “with a seriousness and depth that distinguishes him from the mediocre depth of most of the cardinals appointed by Pope Francis”.
The Luxembourger studied at the Jesuit University in Frankfurt am Main and in Munich, speaks several languages, including Japanese, and taught for a long time at the renowned Sophia University in Tokyo. According to Magister, this university has nothing to do with the university of the same name, founded in 2008 by Chiara Lubich and her Focolare Movement in Loppiano, according to Hollerich's official biography on the Vatican website, which is incorrectly stated.
The Jesuit worked in Japan until Pope Benedict XVI. returned to Europe in 2011 by appointing him archbishop of his homeland. As the seat of various EU institutions and as a mediator between the two core countries of the EU, the Federal Republic of Germany and France or the corresponding language areas, the small Grand Duchy of Luxembourg plays an important hinge function, which is usually exercised discreetly and in the interests of the supranational unification process.
This was also taken into account in the Church by electing Hollerich in 2018 to chair the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community ( COMECE), which is composed of the delegated bishops of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union. The Church has little weight in the current EU and seems to have largely resigned itself to playing an extra role. A rather rare exception was Hollerich's criticism against French President Emmanuel Macron's proposal to include a "right to abortion" in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Macron made the corresponding move on January 19 in his speech to the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, with which he took over the French EU presidency.
Macron's initiative, which can hardly be surpassed in terms of cruelty and impudence, illustrated the state of affairs in the EU. With the icy coolness of the technocrat, who had never stood for election until the time when he was nominated in backrooms as a presidential candidate, he openly and publicly demanded that the killing of innocent people be made a "fundamental right" and "European value". Even more outrageous is the fact that MEPs sat idly by and listened to this incredible blunder.
Hollerich's objection came late and quietly, but it came nonetheless. He accused the Frenchman of "ideological guidelines" and expressed his "deep concern". As COMECE President, the cardinal spoke of an "unjust law without any ethical basis, which would lead to constant conflicts between the citizens of the EU". Human dignity is a core value of the EU. We are aware of the "tragedy and complexity" of the situation of women who are considering having an abortion. “Women in need should not be left alone, nor should the unborn child’s right to life be disregarded. Both must be given all the help and support they need.”
The Leap Forward
Hollerich stepped into the front row in the church when Pope Francis created him a cardinal in 2019. Since Francis follows idiosyncratic criteria when selecting those who wear purple, Hollerich's elevation to the rank of cardinal is to be seen as a special sign of favor. The Luxemburger is one of four Jesuits who were appointed to the Church senate by the Jesuit on the papal throne.
Hollerich had first taken over the leadership of the church in his homeland, then a leading position at the EU level, and now he has stepped onto the global stage. An apparently unstoppable rise. On July 8, 2021, Francis appointed him General Rapporteur of the multi-year Synod of Bishops on Synodality. The concept of synodality plays a central role for the reigning pope, and he made Hollerich the standard-bearer of this synodality, under the auspices of which Francis wants to transform the Church.
The role of the reporter general does not have to be given as much weight as Magister does, but Hollerich's appointment is nevertheless a signal: "Compared to Francis, who always remains indecipherable even when he opens up space for new solutions, Hollerich stands out with greater clarity.”
What is essential about Magister's analysis is that it shows Hollerich's positions, which he has made in several recent interviews. Magister writes:
“In recent weeks he has given lengthy interviews in which, apparently with intuitive approval from above, he has made clear directions that the pope does not wish to articulate in his own words, which is certainly linked to the wave of extreme demands now being poured out by the almost schismatic synodal path in Germany.”
“I used to be a big advocate of celibacy for all priests, but today I wish there were 'viri probati' [Hapless old boomers, short on orthodoxy and long on professional accomplishments.]It's a deep desire. And yet it is a difficult path for the Church because it can be felt like a rupture. After the Synod on Amazonia, one of the reasons why the Pope did not allow viri probati could be that they were too strongly demanded and the Synod was too reduced to this issue. But I think we have to go in that direction, otherwise, we'll soon run out of priests. [BS, dioceses that promote the Catholic Faith don't have a shortage of priests.] In the long term, I can also imagine the path of orthodoxy, in which only the monks are obliged to be celibate.”
“It seems to me that the first problem is not whether or not women should become priests, but more importantly whether women have any real weight in the priesthood, which is common to all baptized and confirmed members of the people of God, and whether they in this way exercise the associated authority. Would that also mean preaching at Mass? I would say yes.
"I wouldn't mind. But the reforms must be based on a stable foundation. If the Pope were to suddenly allow 'viri probati' and deaconesses, there would be a great danger of division. There is not only the situation in Germany, where maybe only a small part would break away. In Africa or in countries like France, many bishops would probably not participate.”
4) German Synod
“Sometimes I have the impression that the German bishops do not understand the Pope. The Pope is not liberal, he is radical. It is the radical nature of the Gospel that brings about change. I share Tomás Halik's attitude: we can't just talk about structural reforms, spirituality must also grow again. If it just reforms as a result of a conflict, things can quickly turn around. In this case, everything depends only on the greater influence of one group or another. That way we don’t get out of the vicious circle.”
5) Sexuality and abuse
“We need to change the way we look at sexuality. So far we have had a rather repressed view of it. Of course, it's not about telling people they can do anything, or getting rid of morality, but I think we have to say that sex is a gift from God. We know that, but are we saying it? I'm not sure. Some people attribute the increase in abuse to the sexual revolution. I think just the opposite: in my opinion, the most horrible things happened before the 1970s.”
“The Church's position that homosexual relationships are sinful is wrong. I believe that the sociological and scientific basis of this doctrine is no longer correct. It is time for a fundamental revision of the Church's teaching, and the way Pope Francis has spoken about homosexuality may lead to a doctrinal change. In the meantime, in our archdiocese in Luxembourg, no one is dismissed for being homosexual or for being divorced and remarried. I can't throw them out, they would be out of a job, and how can something like that be Christian? As for homosexual priests, there are many of them and it would be good if they could talk about it with their bishop without his condemning them.”
“In Tokyo, I gave communion to everyone who came to Mass. I have never refused Communion to anyone. I have assumed that when a Protestant comes to Communion, he knows at least as well what Catholics mean by Communion as do other Catholics who go to Mass. But I would not concelebrate with an evangelical pastor. In Tokyo I got to know and appreciate Protestantism very well. But I attended one of their evening meals and was horrified when the remaining wine and bread were thrown away. That shook me a lot because as a Catholic I believe in the Real Presence.”
8) Latin Mass
“I like the Latin Mass, I find the texts very beautiful, especially the first canon. When I celebrate Mass in the chapel of my home, I sometimes choose a Latin prayer. But I wouldn't do that in a church. I know that the people there don't understand Latin and can't do anything with it. I have been asked to celebrate a Latin Mass in Antwerp according to the current rite. I will, but I wouldn't celebrate the old rite. That doesn't mean that others might not be able to do it in a good way. But I can not. In our language and in our imagination, the past is behind us and the future is ahead of us. In ancient Egypt, it was the other way around. The past was seen as something that lies ahead because we know and see it, while the future lies behind us because we do not know it. The Catholic Church still seems to me to have an Egyptian touch. But it doesn't work anymore. God opens up for the future. Some say that the fair used to be much nicer. But what form do they refer to? Mostly they imagine a certain past that is 'stylized' into a tradition. This is where Egyptian civilization ultimately failed. She was no longer able to change herself.” God opens up for the future. Some say that the Mass used to be much nicer. But what form do they refer to? Mostly they imagine a certain past that is 'stylized' into a tradition. This is where Egyptian civilization ultimately failed.”
“I know men and women, including those on the left, who identify as committed Christians fighting climate change, but vote in the European Parliament to make abortion a fundamental right and restrict doctors' freedom of conscience. They tend to confine their religious preferences to the private sphere. But in this case, it is no longer a religion but a personal belief. Religion needs a public space in which to express itself. For example, I am absolutely against abortion. And as a Christian, I cannot take any other position. But I also understand that it is about the dignity of women and that what we used to say against the abortion law is no longer audible today. What other actions can we take at this time? At this point, what else can we do to protect life? If discourse is no longer followed, you shouldn’t bite your teeth, but look for other ways.”
Aside from the fact that Hollerich says deaconesses but means female deacons, it would be interesting to know what he is referring to when he says that the "most horrible things" of sexual abuse happened before 1970, which his age and his choice of words make him not seem to have what I know from my own experience that the positions of the Jesuit cardinal are frighteningly clear. He proves to be a more liberal spirit – despite the fact that he is the same as Francis in terms of content. However, this does not predestine him as a candidate for the Petrine ministry.
On another point, the liturgical blessing of homosexual couples, "on which the German synod got into an uproar and Pope Francis himself showed signs of giving in", Hollerich, according to Magister, made "short work":
"I don't agree with marriage blessings, because we see marriage only as a bond between a man and a woman."
However, Hollerich distances himself from something that is not (yet) demanded in this form even by the Church homosexual lobby. The man who, according to the Magister, formulates "with greater clarity" than Francis, also uses veiling means of dialectics.
According to the Vaticanist, Hollerich's vision of the Church also differs from the "hyper-democratic" view that the Limburg bishop and chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Georg Bätzing, recently confirmed in an interview. But that doesn't seem so sure.
Magister doesn't mention it, but it fits the picture: Hollerich advised Cardinal Rainer Woelki, Archbishop of Cologne, in early February to resign. Such "advice" could already be heard from Munich. With Hollerich, Santa Marta is not far away.
“However, one unknown factor remains open. How long will Hollerich's reform guidelines, which consist of many yeses but also some nos, last if the disturbing proposals of the German synod in Rome meet the synod of the whole Church on synodality?
At a press conference on February 3, Bätzing said that after meeting Hollerich and Maltese Cardinal Mario Grech, general secretary of the synod of bishops, in Luxembourg, he was received in audience by Pope Francis, who advocated the establishment of a working group to reconcile the German synod with of the Synod of the Universal Church.
In the summary, Magister sounds devastating criticism:
“Hollerich as a reform candidate for the papacy seems to promise a more straightforward and coherent path than the current shaky and contradictory pontificate. However, he is a banal echo of Bergoglio, even if he repeats the litany so important to the incumbent Pope: 'Even the shepherd does not always know the way and knows where to go. Sometimes it is the sheep who find the way and the shepherd who laboriously follows, step by step'.”
Not to mention, according to Magister, the ruthless mockery of the Aristotelian principle of non-contradiction, in which Hollerich does not shy away from turning it into its opposite "with a touch of coloring à la japonaise" - like Pope Francis:
“I am a bishop who is from Japan and I think these experiences have given me a different perspective of thinking and judgement. Unlike the Europeans, the Japanese do not think in terms of the logic of opposites. When we say something is black, it means it's not white. The Japanese, on the other hand, say: 'It's white, but maybe also black'. In Japan, you can combine opposites without changing your point of view.”
Text: Giuseppe Nardi Image : Vatican.va/MiL/La Croix (Screenshots)