Divisions in the Church nothing new, can be healthy

A top papal aide and one of the main organisers of Pope Francis’ ongoing Synod of Bishops on Synodality has said current tensions within Catholicism, including those highlighted by the recent deaths of Pope Benedict XVI and Australian Cardinal George Pell, are nothing new and are potentially healthy.

Feb 03, 2023

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg.


By Elise Ann Allen
A top papal aide and one of the main organisers of Pope Francis’ ongoing Synod of Bishops on Synodality has said current tensions within Catholicism, including those highlighted by the recent deaths of Pope Benedict XVI and Australian Cardinal George Pell, are nothing new and are potentially healthy.

Differences in opinion are actually good for the Church, said Jesuit Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, provided they are shared with respect and humility.

Speaking at the presentation of a major ecumenical event aimed at strengthening intra-Christian ties as part of Pope Francis’ synodal reform process, Hollerich said he’s not worried about perceived conflicts among different Catholic camps.

“That there are different opinions in the Catholic Church is quite normal,” he said, adding, “We live in a moment of change, a change of the era. We are in the year zero of digitalisation, and this means that we have to see together how we can proclaim Christ in this new world emerging.”

Noting that a good deal of debate in the Church is currently centred on the synod process, Hollerich said the synod itself “is not a divisive factor,” as there have always been differing opinions on key discussion topics, but rather, the synod “is a factor that brings people together where you have to listen to each other, but not just as a position, but in order to discern what God wants for His people.”

Shortly after the January 10 death of Pell in a Rome hospital, it emerged that his last essay was a piece for the Spectator objecting that the Synod on Synodality has developed into a “toxic nightmare” and that its preparatory document is “incomplete [and] hostile in significant ways to the apostolic tradition.”

Despite what Hollerich said are “loud and shrill” voices complaining about the synod process unfolding, he said an attitude of listening and discernment alone “can be the answer the Church gives for all of these questions.”

“We have to go together, humbly walk with our Lord, and really trust in God, trust in the Holy Spirit,” he said, saying, “it’s not about Church politics, it’s about prayer, and it’s about the Holy Spirit, and it’s about the people of God walking humbly together.”

Christians obsessed with internal politics give the world an image of “a small group of people not interested in the world, in mission, but centred on themselves all the time,” Hollerich said, adding, “If that’s the image we want to give the world, we can try it, but I prefer the synodal way.” --Crux

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