New cardinals say building church unity is urgent need

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Cardinal-designate Christophe Pierre, nuncio to the United States, talks with CNS at the Vatican on Sept. 29, 2023. CNS photo/Lola Gomez

VATICAN CITY. Cardinal-designate Christophe Pierre, nuncio to the United States, said the unity of the Catholic community in the country and its sense of communion with Pope Francis and the wider Church will grow the more it focuses on being the church.

His job as nuncio, he said, “is to help the Church be the Church.”

Speaking to Catholic News Service Sept. 29, the eve of his induction into the College of Cardinals, the French prelate insisted the key to Catholic unity is “not to take refuge in ideologies.”

Trouble comes when important, valid points of Christian faith and morality “become isolated” from one’s living witness of faith, he said. “We become fighters for ideas.”

For example, Cardinal-designate Pierre said, “I am strongly pro-life but I’m not a defender of the ‘idea’ of life, I am a priest. I am accompanying people,” making sure the defense of life happens “on the ground.”

“The Church is there to help people, you know, make an encounter with another person, Christ,” he said. “And Christ is not an idea. And the Church is not an organization; the Church is the presence of God in the human reality.”

The Church must accompany people in the search for truth, he said, “and, again, the truth is not an idea, it’s a person,” Jesus, who frees his disciples from fear.

The nuncio declined to respond to questions about the apostolic visitation of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, and he said he did not know why Pope Francis chose him to be one of the 21 new cardinals and he did not ask the pope.

“‘Thank you, Holy Father,’ that’s what I said” when he met the pope Sept. 6, he said. “I remain with the mystery of my appointment.”

Called “the greatest interpreter of the Second Vatican Council” by Pope Francis, Cardinal-designate Agostino Marchetto told CNS that as a cardinal he would continue doing “what I have always done” since retiring, “that is, to study and publish.”

His most recent work, he said, focuses on the need for dialogue within the Church because the Church needs different voices and points of view, but it needs them to work together.

“This reality of division among us, too, even though we are all Catholics” is found in Italy as well as in the United States, he said.

He said the solution is for all Catholics “to finally receive Vatican II.”

“The pope is trying to hold together what was united by the council,” which, the cardinal-designate pointed out, brought together more than 2,000 bishops from around the world, who managed to discuss and agree on more than a dozen documents.

“Those who were there, they found consensus, assent, which is a fundamental word in the Church,” he said.

“We have to compromise, not compromise in the sense that we kill part of the truth to say that we have made a compromise,” he said. “We must find overall the ability to come together, respecting each other.”

Certain “points of reference must be accepted” if the Church is to overcome its internal divisions, he said, and those points are the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and the authority and legitimacy of Pope Francis as pope.

“Every pope, during Vatican II and after Vatican II, embraced continuity in the renewal and reform of the one subject, the Church, and we have to get this into our heads, otherwise we are not Catholics,” he said.

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