Christophe Pierre Apostolic Nuncio of the United States Photo: Catholic University

United States, Catholics and Polarization: Pope’s Nuncio Addresses These Topics

Asked about the Pope’s recent comment on the risk of polarization in the Church of the United States and how to manage it, Monsignor Pierre thinks that this situation does not only affect the United States

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Rafael Manuel Tovar 

(ZENIT News / Washington, DC, 16.09.2023).- In an interview with the Vatican media, the Pope’s Nuncio in the United States commented on aspects of the forthcoming Synod and on the solutions to evangelize the vertiginous society in which we live.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre has been Apostolic Nuncio in Haiti, Uganda and Mexico. He is currently representing the Holy Father in the United States since 2016. He is a native of Rennes, France, and spent his childhood in Africa. Then he studied in Rome and entered the Holy See’s Diplomatic Corps in 1977.

Asked about the Pope’s recent comment on the risk of polarization in the Church of the United States and  how to manage it, Monsignor Pierre thinks that this situation does not only affect the United States, but the whole world, especially in politics. My attention is caught by the difficulty that politicians sometimes have to talk among themselves about the resolution of concrete problems.  Polarization results from one forgetting easily the concretion in reality, which is always between persons: when one is closed to or forgets people, the concrete situations, one goes to ideas, is polarized, in what we call in the United States a “cultural war.”

Regarding this cultural war that exists in the society, he said: “Let’s take a concrete problem, that of immigration: a great problem in our society and not only in the United States. It’s a concrete problem that has no other way out than to resolve it. However, the society shows itself – especially in the United States – incapable of resolving it and [people] are polarized around the solutions that are never put into practice.”

He talked about the work of Catholics in the United States regarding the situation of immigrants: “The American Church has done extraordinary work over the last 50 years in defense of real values: the value of life, the fight against abortion, the defense of the poorest . . . The American Church is extraordinary in the defense of the poorest. The risk, says the Holy Father, is to focus only on the ‘value’ and lose sight of the person. The life of concrete persons must always be defended. And the Church does this.”

The case of immigration and the defense of life help Monsignor Pierre to clarify the polarization that exists in rulers  and how it affects the whole society: “It’s not only about a battle of ideas, but of a commitment that all levels of society and of the Church must assume, in mutual collaboration. For example, the fight for life must be concreted at all levels. There is a magnificent movement in the United States to accompany mothers. It’s what the Pope asks us, so that we are not only defenders of ideas because, if I only defend an idea, then he who disagrees with me becomes my enemy. And then the effect is the contrary: at the end we are engaged in a cultural battle and we forget the reality.”

In regard to the Synod that opens in October, he discussed how Synodality is seen in the Church of the United States: “Some are afraid, many people have demonized the idea of synodality, because of a lack of understanding of what the Holy Father wants. I think the Pope has launched it because he sees that society has changed. I remember that, at the conference in Aparecida [Brazil] in 20007, a very important topic arose: the change of time, that is, in this globalized world, a new world, the problems are new. Then the Church understood that we had to walk together to find solutions to evangelize a new world. To walk together, as Church, through the method of encounter and dialogue.”

The Nuncio suggests taking advantage of the opportunity that the Synod offers to revitalize ecclesial life in the current situation: “Many people are somewhat afraid of dialogue because, to dialogue, one must open oneself, be somewhat poor and seek solutions together. The Synod launched by the Holy Father is precisely this. Unfortunately, many people have not read well all of Francis’ interventions when, for example, he says: ‘We must be together, dialogue, listen to one another. Listen, pray together and ask the Holy Spirit to inspire us.’ There are those who think that it’s about trying to remake a new Church that has nothing to do with the old one and they start to say: “It’s a disaster!’ The challenge today is to overcome that fear and begin to walk again . . . ‘”

Here it’s good to take up again the Holy Father’s words, when, on his return from Mongolia, as Zenit informed, he was asked about how to avoid ideological polarization. And Pope Francis responded: “You have talked about avoiding ideological pressures. There is no room for ideology in the Synod, it’s another dynamic. The Synod is dialogue among the baptized, among members of the Church, about the life of the Church, about dialogue with the world, about the problems that affect humanity today. But when one thinks only of an ideological path, the Synod ends.”

The Pope clarified this vision even more: “There is no place for ideology in the Synod, there is a place for dialogue, to confront one another as brothers, and confront the Doctrine of the Church. To go forward. Then I wish to stress that synodality isn’t my invention: it was Saint Paul VI’s. When Vatican Council II ended, he realized that in the West the Church had lost the synodal dimension: the Church of the East has it. Hence he created the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, which over these sixty years has taken forward the reflection in a synodal way, in continuous progress, advancing. When fifty years of this decision of Saint Paul VI were fulfilled, I signed and published a document on what the Synod is, about what has gone forward. And now it has advanced, it has matured more. And so, it seemed to me very good to hold a Synod on Synodality, which isn’t a fashion, it’s an ancient thing; the Church of the East has always had it.”

Monsignor Pierre applies this same projection on the American Church: “I see it in my country – I have been in the United States for seven years: there is need in the Church of great dialogue, of great listening. I think the direction we must all take is to organize listening. And allow all, all, to have the right to speak. A right to speak doesn’t mean to impose a theory or an agenda, but to say what one feels, always in the line of evangelization. The Pope expressed the urgency of this in the present world, which has changed, to evangelize, because there is a loss of values and many people have forgotten their vocation and mission: to be witnesses of Jesus in the society in which they live. A new education is necessary for evangelization .”

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