In an interview granted to Catholic News Agency, Archbishop Ricard from Bordeaux, one of the 15 new Cardinals appointed by pope Benedict shared with us what he thinks are the main challenges of the Church in a secularized society and the challenge posed by Islam to the Christians in Europe.
What was your first reaction to your nomination as Cardinal, we know that is a tradition for the see of Bordeaux ?
When I arrived here in Bordeaux, they told me you’ll probably be nominated Cardinal some day. But I thought with the internationalization of the Roman Curie, the former cities except for big capitals were cardinals were nominated, would leave their seats to other bigger cities across the world. So it was a surprise at first. I saw it as a sign of confidence from the Pope and a sign of esteem for the Diocese of Bordeaux, which I represent as well as for the French Bishops conference.
As a Cardinal You are going to participate directly to the Government of the Church, and assist Pope Benedict who appointed you. What do you see as the main challenge for the Universal Church in the world today?
I believe that the great challenge is that of evangelization for the Church today. The announcement of the Gospel today, in the face of billions of people men and women who don’t know it. The proclamation of the Gospel confronted to other religions and cultures. How in a context of dialogue to gospel of Jesus Christ can be announced , this would be my first concern.
My second concern, is how a greater solidarity can be promoted among men, for what amounts to peace, relations between peoples, and the struggle against the big worldwide economic unbalance, and the issue of hunger.
Coming back to theme of evangelization, and globalization which is also relevant for the Church, Do you know the other Cardinals, particularly those of Asia, a priority has been given to them by Pope Benedict?
Well, I have a trip planned to Vietnam, through an invitation from the local bishops. But trip has been delayed for internal reasons, I should be going there in September or October, I’ll do it then. At the Synod of Bishops in October, I have a vivid memory of the bishops of Asia, I recall perfectly the remarkable intervention with great strength from the bishop of Hong Kong Joseph Zen. This bishop that Pope Benedict has also nominated as Cardinal.
Now more on the theme of France, you are the president of the French Bishops Conference since 2001, you released an important document on the reform of the Church in France, How do you view the situation of the Church there?
I thing that in France, we passed through an extremely strong crisis, in the 1960’s and 1970’s , linked to phenomenon of secularization that affected all European countries. It seems to me that we are slowly coming out of this crisis. At the level vocations, I can notice a slight betterment in my diocese in Bordeaux, more young guys are entering seminary since two years. This is a clear proof for hope in the Church.
As well as for lay people, many of them, are taking more responsibility and are more vested in the Church and local communities. What the new communities are adding is a source of great dynamism.
Another phenomenon I noticed, is that we are confronted to a phenomenon either of indifference towards religion, I think for instance that there is a renewal antichristian movements, that can stem from either thinkers, music artists, intellectual groups. We feel attacks of not only church, but Christian faith in its foundation. We therefore sense the importance as Saint Peter says in his epistle to make a display of our faith.
We are in a pluralistic society, where there is a variety of expressions, there are very antireligious expression, expressions which manifest a need of spirituality, and also the challenge of Islam. A Challenge in the sense, in which we are confronted today to a religion, where believers are proud of their faith and missionaries, who want to promote Islam. We can’t blame believers for the will to spread their faith, but that sends us back to the question if we Christians, Catholics are we proud of our faith, and willing to share it.
The challenge is not a fear or concern, but a sort of provocation that leads us to go forth, in depth, and to be more deeply rooted in our faith.
A last question on the current tensions in Europe due the issue of the Caricatures, and the relations with Islam ?
We have to find a just balance between freedom of speech, mingling humor, irony on one side and deep criticism of the others, derision, the one that doesn’t respect the other on the other hand.
Freedom of speech has its limit. We know that in France, a racist discourse, and anti-Semite speech are not permitted. If there are deeply shocking, it is better to avoid them.
A second point, I understand that people can be wounded by theses commentaries. But we have courts and law tribunals that deal with these kind of attacks. We shouldn’t answer to this violence that can be felt through these caricatures, by another, more gruesome kind of violence, who doesn’t spare lives, and which attacks Christian communities, churches and priests as we saw in Libya an Turkey,.
Thank you Archbishop Ricard for answering our questions.