Cardinal Schönborn on Ecumenism and Papal Ministry

Says the First Needs the Second

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 25, 2001 (ZENIT.orgAVVENIRE).- Cardinal Christoph Schönborn came away from this week´s extraordinary consistory with optimism.

In this interview, the 56-year-old archbishop of Vienna, Austria, a leading theologian and the principal writer of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, said: «This meeting of cardinals was a great consolation for me.»

–Q: Eminence, why do you feel so confident at the end of the sessions of this sixth extraordinary consistory convoked by John Paul II?

–Cardinal Schönborn: A reporter asked me if, after this event, the future of the Catholic Church is clearer. I replied that the future of the Church is in the hands of the Lord, who guides it safely and gives us courage. By his example and word, the Pope shows us that there is no reason to be afraid. There are certainly many reasons to be alert, and even concerned about certain situations, but not to be afraid.

–Q: What happened in the consistory that gives you such confidence?

–Cardinal Schönborn: I very much liked what Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe said about the Holy Year. We bishops perhaps do not take into proper consideration that there is a Christian people who believe intensely. The Jubilee Year manifested this intensity of Christian life, and this gives us pastors courage, calling us at the same time to conversion. It is for us to accept this invitation.

–Q: How?

–Cardinal Schönborn: I am thinking of the insistence of many cardinals on the topic of holiness. It was the [topic] most mentioned, because the mission depends on Christian life, and Christian life means union with God, communion with Christ, giving of oneself. More than that, the mission is above all a life of witness.

–Q: According to the media, it seems that the principal topic was that of collegiality, the relation of bishops with the Pope.

–Cardinal Schönborn: Certainly, there was also discussion on collegiality, but even before the role of the Pope. I am leaving this consistory with a clearer consciousness: Christ has given his Church a very great grace with Peter´s ministry. Indeed, without him, all the efforts of the local churches would be isolated and subjected to political, social and economic pressures. However, thanks to Peter´s ministry, the universal Church gives strength to the local churches.

–Q: Some cardinals have requested the revision of the functioning of the synod, one of the instruments of collegiality.

–Cardinal Schönborn: Yes, but from my point of view, this has nothing to do with collegiality. The attempt to improve the functioning of the synod after 30 years is a question of form, not substance. However, the substance is that we live collegiality in union with Peter´s Successor and this gives us courage and strength.

–Q: Collegiality and the primacy of Peter remind one of ecumenism, another topic of the consistory. Was there something new?

–Cardinal Schönborn: Above all, a consciousness emerges from the consistory. That is, that ecumenism has need of Peter, of this ministry of the Pope, which allows us to have a precise point of reference in our relation with the other Christian confessions.

–Q: How did the consistory see the relation of the Church with the world?

–Cardinal Schönborn: There was discussion on the formation of the faith, in order to have an alternative culture emerge to the one prevailing today. In this connection, I think the liturgy could have a privileged role, which is, perhaps, the most beautiful work of Christian culture. It is a world of beauty, an area where one finds meaning, closeness to God and to men.

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