Pope Francis names Jesuit cardinal to key synod on synodality position

CNA 5d9f6958b9067 165860 Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, Archbishop of Luxembourg, at the Vatican, Oct. 5, 2019.

Pope Francis on Thursday named the Jesuit Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich as the relator general of the 2023 synod on synodality.

Hollerich, the president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), will help to oversee the gathering of the world’s bishops in Rome.

The 62-year-old cardinal has served as archbishop of Luxembourg since 2011. His archdiocese covers the whole Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, one of Europe’s smallest countries, bordering Belgium, France, and Germany.

He thanked Pope Francis for the new appointment on July 8 via his Twitter account.

As relator general, Hollerich will take part in the meetings of the Ordinary Council of Preparation for the upcoming synod, formally known as the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

Hollerich will be expected to present a report at the start of the assembly in October 2023, introducing the theme of synodality. He will also outline the synod’s working document and the points that participants are due to discuss.

He will also preside over the preparation of the synod’s final document, which is submitted to participants for approval.

The rules governing synods say that, “if circumstances so indicate, the relator general presents a summary of the topics that emerge during the synodal discussions, as well as clarifying certain points and providing information on the elaboration of the final document.”

His role ceases at the dissolution of the assembly.

A nomination as relator general is seen as a mark of papal esteem. The relator general at the 2019 Amazon synod was the Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes.

At the 2018 youth synod, the post was held by another Brazilian, Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha. The relator general of the 2014-2015 family synods was Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdő.

The Vatican announced in May that the synod on synodality had been postponed to 2023, with a two-year consultative preparatory phase involving Catholic dioceses worldwide.

Hollerich was born on Aug. 9, 1958, in Differdange, southwestern Luxembourg.

He began his studies for the priesthood at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1981, within the Jesuit Province of South Belgium and Luxembourg.

In 1985, he departed for Japan, where he studied theology at Sophia University in Tokyo, as well as the Japanese language and culture.

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After further theological studies in Frankfurt, Germany, he was ordained to the priesthood on April 21, 1990, in Brussels, Belgium.

He then spent four years studying the German language and literature at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in southern Germany.

He made his final vows in 2002 at the Church of St. Ignatius in Tokyo, passing to the Jesuit Province of Japan.

Named archbishop of Luxembourg by Benedict XVI, Hollerich served as president of the Conference of European Justice and Peace Commissions from 2014 to 2018.

He was appointed a cardinal by Pope Francis, receiving the red hat on Oct. 5, 2019.

Hollerich was elected president of COMECE in 2018, succeeding German Cardinal Reinhard Marx. Since then, he has spoken out on religious freedom, the plight of refugees in Europe, and secularization.

In September 2020, he expressed “great respect” for the German Church’s controversial “Synodal Way,” saying that participants dared “to ask very big questions.”

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He said that the most important issue that German Catholics were grappling with was the role of women.

“I’m not saying they have to become priests; I simply don’t know that. But I am open to it,” he told the German Catholic news agency KNA. “What is clear, however, is that the current situation is not enough. You have to see and notice that women have a right to a say in the Church.”

Hollerich tested positive for COVID-19 in January, but recovered.

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