(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 28.09.2023).- Monsignor Christophe Pierre, the Pope’s Nuncio in the United States, and soon to be Cardinal, gave an interview to the Web of the diocese of Rennes. In this interview, translated by ZENIT into English, the Nuncio explains the role of the Pope and how Francis intends to renew evangelization and synodality in the Church.
Q: What type of Cardinal do you hope to be?
A: I saw the Pope again fifteen days ago in Rome. He asked me, simply, to continue my mission as Nuncio. He already said it to me three years ago, when he didn’t accept my resignation for reason of age (at 75). So I see my role as Cardinal as a continuation of what I’m already doing.
For several years, I’ve represented the Pope in several countries; that’s my mission and I’ve always done it with great passion. I see this decision of Pope Francis as an enormous gesture of trust and esteem on his part.
Nuncios have the task to help a local Church to never lose sight of the Church’s universal dimension, when the risk always exists of closing herself in herself or of becoming more self-referential. This dimension is not simply ideal; it’s also personal and linked to the person of the Pope. The danger that arises sometimes, including here, in the United States and in other countries, is to escape from this Pope and convert him into the idea of a Pope that doesn’t exist.
The Church’s magisterium always implies concrete persons, because the Church is something concrete. When Jesus chose Peter, He said: “I call you Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.”
Thus it’s Christ’s Church, built on a person, the Pope. I believe this is the Church’s mystery. So, as the Pope’s representative, my role is to enable him to direct the Church, basing myself on what he is.
Q: You’ve known the Pope for a long time. What can you say to us about his role and his magisterium?
A: I met him in Mexico in 2007, on the occasion of the General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate in Aparecida, which Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, attended. He had an important role and produced something unheard of: the necessity to evangelize in a new way in a new world. A secularized world in which the faith is no longer transmitted as before. Up to 60 years ago, the transmission of the Faith was done through culture, a culture very permeated by religion. Today, things are different. This is the main point of the Aparecida Conference, to say that now we need to reinvent the way in which we witness the faith. Cardinal Bergoglio was one of the Latin American Bishops who saw this.
The changing times in which we live also mean a new world, a world in which we don’t understand all the ins and outs. It’s the same problem. So Pope Francis, with his basic intuition of Aparecida, renewed in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, tells us that we’ll only be able to do so if we are together, and if we take this step of discernment together.
And synodality, the Synod, consists in walking together, so we must learn to walk together.
It seems providential to me that the Holy Spirit helped to appoint someone from a Church that had lived that same experience, so that it could be universalized. So we are now in the process of universalizing it, which isn’t easy.
This Pope is really the teacher, and he tells us the method. The challenge of our time isn’t a question of changing the doctrine, it’s a question of method. And the method is first of all to listen. To listen also means to listen to others, but also to listen to the Holy Spirit. It is ecclesial listening. And then there is dialogue, true dialogue. And, finally, it’s also discernment. And when we listen, when we dialogue and put ourselves always in the light of the faith, of the Holy Spirit, [we do so] as we are working on discernment.
He is the Pope of discernment. As a great spiritual director of humanity, based precisely on Christ’s revelation, he looks at humanity with great attention to the human person, to the anthropology, to all the dimensions of humanity. Hence, all his documents reflect on the dimensions of human life today, including the environment, politics, poverty, moral questions, gender relations and all that makes up our current life.
Q: In the coming days , Pope Francis will open in Rome the first session of the 16thOrdinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. How do you think the faithful can accompany the Bishops and other participants in the Synodal Assembly?
A: As the Synodal Assembly approaches, we are all called to be pedagogues, educators, something like the father or mother of a small child that takes the reality of his/her little child exactly as it is and helps him to grow, with all his richness and poverty. But, at the same time, will make the child understand the reality of the day to day so that he can become an adult. The true educator is the one who helps and educates the person to ask himself questions, which doesn’t necessarily give us immediate answers. Because it’s precisely there where the fruit of education must be, of personal progress.
And the Pope is saying to us today, in an ever more individualist world, in which we have lost the sense of community, that we need to rediscover this sense of community to advance together and listen to all. Because we are no longer in a world in which it was enough for the leader to say what he wanted so that all would follow him. It’s not so today, with a sort of democratization of ideas through the press and means of communication.
If we want to address the challenges of our time, we must build together, listen to one another and educate each other. That’s what a Christian community must be.
The Synod has begun well, but it has only begun. This year, the Assembly will take note of what has happened. Many people will also come with their agenda and will say that this or that must be done. So the role of the Pope, as well as for those responsible, will be to say: be careful, let’s not come to a conclusion yet. He who comes with his agenda and his proposals must also listen to the others, to listen humbly to one another. I believe the Synod consists in that. This is the Synod as I see it and dream of it. And I confess, that as Nuncio and Cardinal, I make a great effort in my work to advance in that direction.
I believe it was an error to think that the Synod, as the Pope wanted it, was only a moment for Christians to get together for some weeks, write a report and send it to the diocese, which in turn would send it to its Episcopal Conference, which would then go to the region and end up in Rome to write a final report.
This first meeting was an important exercise; we had to receive these parameters. However, it is, in fact, only the beginning and we are going to begin again.
What the Pope wants is that every parish, every community, learn to work as Synod. So we need to find the way to do so in the very organization of our parishes.
So people will wonder what’s going to happen in Rome. Many things but, above all, going to say what has been done, and go on! That’s why it’s called Synod on Synodality. The Synod will reflect on the synodal method. We will be able to determine the dispositions to continue in synod.
Because, in fact, when the Pope says that the Church will be synodal or it won’t be at all, which has been very ridiculed by some, he expresses exactly what we wished to say, namely, that we must progressively become a Church in which all can advance together.
So then, let’s go against the traps, as the Pope often says, of clericalism. A parish isn’t only a place with a parish priest who decides everything. It’s a place where the priest directs and the people participate. We must rediscover that. And that’s not only a new method, it’s not a fantasy, it’s a necessity given the situation of the present world. This is how I understand it.
Q: You will be the only French Cardinal and Apostolic Nuncio. Does this confer on you a special place in France’s Church?
A: I’m not part of the French Episcopal Conference, I form part of the Holy See’s Diplomatic Corps and represent the Pope in my mission. I was called by my Bishop 50 years ago go enter the Holy See, and today my fellow Nuncios come from all over the world, from all nationalities. But, of course, I’m French by birth, I’m French at heart, of course. I’m also Breton, don’t forget it, and moreover from Malouin.
Translation of the original French into Spanish by ZENIT’s Editorial Director and, into English, by Virginia M. Forrester