What Will the Cardinals Talk About?

Interview with Cardinal Louis-Marie Billé

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 20, 2001 (ZENIT.orgAVVENIRE).- Cardinal Louis-Marie Billé, archbishop of Lyon, has presided over the French bishop´s conference since 1996. In this interview the 63-year-old addresses the topics that he and the other cardinals will analyze during the extraordinary consistory which opens Monday.

–Q: Which do you think is the most important problem to be discussed in the forthcoming consistory?

–Cardinal Billé: I think the consistory will develop around a fundamental topic: We will have to discuss pastoral directions for the future in light of John Paul II´s apostolic letter «Novo Millennio Ineunte.» At the heart of the analysis is the question of the evolution of the Church, and its relation to Western culture and the manifestations connected to the phenomenon of globalization. [Translator´s note: The French consider the word «worldization» more appropriate than globalization.]

–Globalization is at the center of the Church´s debate, as well as that of the world in general. Is the same meaning given to this word?

–Cardinal Billé: The Church´s difficulties are not linked to internal problems, but arise from the meeting between the Gospel and the world, between ecclesial tradition and contemporary cultures.

Relations between Rome and local churches are a reflection of other important questions: the way in which particular cultures meet the Gospel, the way in which they live globalization, the way in which they address ethical questions, in particular, those relating to the beginning and end of life, problems that affect salvation in Jesus Christ. In sum, I think we are at the heart of the question.

–Q: The cardinals from different parts of the world bring different sensitivities with them. How can they be reconciled?

–Cardinal Billé: I have no experience of meetings of the College of Cardinals, but I took part in the 1999 Synod of Europe. Well, there were many differences among us, but we were conscious of facing a series of common challenges, which we had to address together. For example: Europe´s invading liberalism touches France, the Nordic countries, and the Eastern ones in different ways. However, fundamentally, we have to respond to one same question.

–Q: What can Europe offer the Latin American countries and those of the Far East?

–Cardinal Billé: They must not hope for ready-made answers from us. However, it is true that we have often had to face problems that sooner or later will touch them also. Our help can come from the fact of having asked ourselves questions for which we have, with difficulty, offered possible solutions.

–Q: France, a cultured country of Catholic tradition, is faced with triumphant secularism and different religious realities. How is it possible to address such a complex reality?

–Cardinal Billé: When we met in Lourdes last November, we French bishops addressed the problem in these terms: The great pastoral guidelines that we discussed 20 or 30 years ago have shown all their limitations.

Today it is necessary to try humbly to understand what is happening in the field: in the parishes, the movements, and beyond the Christian realm. Therefore, we must proceed by reflecting before making a synthesis and drawing conclusions.

In fact, one of our difficulties is reflected in the extreme complexity of the society in which we live: nostalgic of Christianity, indifferent, secularized peoples, youths who have religious inspirations but do not come to the Church. When we want to proclaim the Gospel, we must know whom we are dealing with. This is the right way.

–Q: What do you think of the drop in vocations in France and other Western countries?

–Cardinal Billé: The decrease in the number of priests causes great problems, one must have no illusions in this point. However, at the same time we must say that this has allowed for an articulation of responsibilities between priests and laity which we couldn´t even have imagined 30 years ago.

Today, we do everything possible so that the laity and priests will find their place, in relation with one another, and together in the service of the Gospel. The drop in vocations is the symptom of a change of civilization: Once this is understood, we are not exempt from proposing the call to our youth. And we do it, I think, with ardor and conviction.

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