Cardinal Hollerich: 'War in Ukraine a wound to soul and heart of Europe'
By Linda Bordoni
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich on Monday relaunched the European Bishops‘ plea for peace in Europe, underlining how "as Churches, we have to do everything possible to reach a ceasefire“ because every day there are people who die, who are wounded, who are hungry, thirsty, who suffer from cold.
The Cardinal, who is the outgoing President of the Commission of the Bishops‘ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), was at Vatican Radio/Vatican News after having been received by Pope Francis together with other members of the Commission.
He described the audience as a "visit of courtesy because we're ending our mandate, five years, next March.“
"It was a very cordial meeting because we have a Pope who loves Europe, and who has great knowledge about the mechanisms of the European Union and who wants Europe to be a factor of peace in the world,“ he said.
The war in Ukraine
It is difficult the Cardinal noted to think of Europe as an agent of peace at a time in which war is raging in Ukraine.
With Pope Francis, the EU Bishops spoke about how, as Church (together with other Churches on the continent) must not spare efforts to reach a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine.
It is undeniable that Europe has become increasingly fragmented in the past years, but Cardinal Hollerich says that Catholics continue to show solidarity and love for their neighbour.
Many Catholics, he said, welcome refugees. And he revealed that he too has a Ukrainian family sheltered in his house.
This makes it so clear, Cardinal Hollerich continued, "that it's not just about politics, it is about human people.“
A harmonious "Brexit"
The Cardinal has been heading COMECE at a time of many challenges, including Brexit, for example, which impacted not only the UK but the whole of Europe.
"I was sad when we had Brexit,“ he revealed, "but I understood that I had to respect the will of the people of the United Kingdom. It was hard because you always see people who want to enter the Union and now there was one big nation leaving it, and we will miss the United Kingdom."
However, Hollerich continued, the Bishops‘ Conference of England and Wales and the Bishops‘ Conference of Scotland are always invited to COMECE‘s General Assemblies, "so we are still brothers, even if they are not in the European Union. And the challenge is to have a good Brexit, which means not a Brexit in opposition, but a Brexit in harmony.“
Europe's responsibility towards migrants and refugees
The President of COMECE reiterated his deep belief that Europeans have a moral duty and responsibility to find legal and safe ways for migrants and refugees to find shelter in Europe.
Men, women and children, each of them with a life experience of love and friendship who died so close to the shores of Europe, he said: "I think we sometimes react in a very nationalistic and egotistical way.“
Cardinal Hollerich observed that compared to many other countries we are not so poor and we should always open our arms to welcome people who need our help.
"And if we have to refuse people, we should not take their human dignity, but treat them as human beings at the border and not as an economic burden,“ he said.
"We have to have politics which really respect the human dignity of each person,“ he said.
As the Cardinal prepares to leave his post as the Head of COMECE after almost five years, he said he really enjoyed "the job“.
"Nobody is irreplaceable," he said, expressing full confidence that the General Assembly in March will elect a good President and that all the member bishops are committed to the common good in Europe, and will know how to go forward.
He expressed joy for the appointment of Bishop Noel Treanor as Apostolic Nuncio to the European Union, which he said "is a great joy and also recognition, first of Bishop Treanor‘s Europeanness, his great experience as Secretary General of COMECE, and also an appreciation of the work of COMECE.“
The Cardinal concluded with an appeal for Christmas:
"Let's not make a feast of consumption of Christmas, because we know that it will not function for human happiness,“ he said. „Let us rediscover the real value of Christmas and appeal to the people of Russia and Ukraine, to their governments, to the Churches: make peace!“
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