The Archbishop of Luxembourg, a Jesuit like Pope Francis, evokes the post-Benedict XVI period.
Paris Match. Could a Jesuit Pope live peacefully next to a retired Pope? Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich. There was no dual papacy. In this circumstance Francis has always exercised his ministry alone since the day of his election. Besides, he spoke with great affection of his predecessor and respected the fact that he no longer had a public life. As for Benedict XVI, he showed a joy that was reflected in his expression, his look, his smile, his face which lit up when his successor went to see him. After the consistory of October 5, 2019, we went by minibus to Benoit XVI who was waiting for us in his chapel. He was at that time so happy for the visit of the Argentinian Pope who came to greet him with the new cardinals. But he was already very weak, that’s why we couldn’t really understand what he was saying, he was having so much trouble articulating. Then Monsignor Gänswein his private secretary gave us a paper where his words were written. Exhausted, sick, he nevertheless still retained the desire to live. But let’s come back to François since this is your question. He did not feel judged by his predecessor. He has great interior freedom, but always marvels at the spirituality of beauty as well as the relationship between faith and reason which characterized, among other things, the thought and life of faith of Benedict XVI. Francis himself is more of a concrete spirituality: how can I follow Christ in today’s world?
Can you synthesize it?
Benedict XVI was very European in his culture, his theology, his baroque liturgy. François remains Latin American, acting with more simplicity and pragmatism.
“As Jesuits we share the same way of thinking and seeing things”
Jesuit, you therefore reason like the Pope, in terms of formation, even if between the ages of 64 and 86 almost a generation separates you!
When you get older you get closer to your family, a normal attitude. But I insist on the spirituality of Saint Ignatius of Loyola our founder and on the spiritual exercises. We certainly sometimes develop the same themes in our homilies, have Ignatian reflexes, not only the intellect, but also by considering that the role of the human being is to be first at the service of others. An expression of the Pope: “the Shepherd must smell the odor of the sheep”, seems very clear to me. We must have our eyes in heaven, fixed on Jesus and our feet firmly on the ground. This means, for example, being in step with technical developments in the digital age. A civilization that will change everything; young people no longer understand long sentences and read few books; science is evolving very quickly since, with the progress of biological engineering, we are even going so far as to reproduce organs and body parts in the laboratory. This inevitably entails an evolution in our understanding of philosophical anthropology and the temptation here will be to forget the essential: man is a creation of God.
As Jesuits we share the same way of thinking and seeing things. Discerning, looking at the world with confidence through the presence of God by first being optimistic about existence. Moreover, our spiritual combat of humanity shows us that the devil is defeated. This may surprise in Europe where the devil is ignored more. It is nevertheless necessary to know how to discern what comes from God or from the Evil Spirit, from the Evil One; this implies knowing in his life of faith that the tempting devil takes the form of the angel of light to seduce men. If I were powerful, I could change, tilt the world towards the good, but we are called to follow the humbled, sacrificed Christ. But only God can really change it. Finally, to come back to your question, there is no particular complicity between the Pope and me, nor even between the Jesuit cardinals, but perhaps the same approach to work, to the daily mission.
Benedict XVI buried, can Francis now give up?
Nothing is impossible but, as long as he gets there, Francis will continue to govern the Church. Knee problems never prevented that. With his great inner strength, incredible will and experience, a renunciation does not seem to be on the agenda. I do not believe it at all. Moreover, the Jesuit Pope, well aware of the possible intrigues of the curia, always remained in control of the situation.
Why was Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion present at Benedict XVI’s funeral?
For the Orthodox, the new Rome is Moscow, a sign of unity in division… There is a way of bowing before Benedict XVI, a form of communion with the common see and Francis. The gestures are important but must then include concrete aspects, such as possible mediation by the Holy See in the war in Ukraine.
Tell me about yourself…
I was born in a small town in Luxembourg called Differdange. My father, a worker in an electricity pumping station, ended up being a manager. I have a sister and still my mother. A seminarian for the diocese of Luxembourg in Rome at the Jesuit Gregorian University, I entered the Society of Jesus at the end of my studies. Volunteer for the mission in Japan, I lived there for nearly twenty-four years until my appointment in 2011 as Archbishop of Luxembourg by Pope Benedict XVI. I confess that I was very surprised after spending so many years outside Europe to be appointed bishop in Luxembourg. Since March 2018, I have been elected for five years as President of Comece, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community. It was François who created me cardinal in October 2019. It was a first in the history of the Church of Luxembourg. On Thursday, July 8, he appointed me general rapporteur of the Synod which opened in October 2021 and will continue until October 2024. A responsibility that will soon take me to Prague, Bangkok, Beirut, Addis Ababa, Bogotá. Because this synod on the Church being at this moment in its continental phase, after the local one at the level of our countries, in my functions, I must listen together with the different collaborators at different levels of responsibility, the continental assemblies.
In this regard it is rumored in Rome that you are one of the cardinals closest to the Pope.
It is rumored that you are close to Francis because, being both Jesuits, you understand each other better. We see each other often… We talk about the synod 2023-2024 of which I am the general rapporteur and other subjects. François likes to make jokes. Even if he has friends from different backgrounds, he listens to them but decides alone. However, he is not a pope that can be influenced. He remains a humble man, close to people but rather suspicious, who sometimes gets angry. For my part, I have never witnessed it directly. I saw him rather benevolent, smiling.