Cardinal Schönborn: marriage and pastoral conversion. My interview.

Christoph-Schonborn

(originally published in La Civiltà Cattolica 2015 III 494-510 (Issue n.3966 – August 26, 2015 – ORIGINAL FULL TEXT IN ITALIAN HERE )

During the Extraordinary Synod on the family, that was held from October 5 to October 19, 2014, I had been struck by, among others, the intervention of Cardinal Schonborn, Archbishop of Vienna.  We had a discussion, after his intervention in the hall, during dinner with a common friend.  Then he spoke to me of his experience as a son of a family that that had lived a divorce.  His lucidity did not come from a merely intellectual reflection, but was the fruit of the lived experience.  Strolling under the colonnades of St Peter’s, he spoke to me about the oblivion regarding grandparents and aunts and uncles in the synodal talks.  The family, he said to me, it’s not only husband, wife, and children: it is a network of broad relationships, even composed of friends and not only of parents.  An eventual divorce affects the broad web of relationships, not only a couple’s life.  But it is also true that that web can hold up to the shock of the split and can sustain the weakest, the children for example.

We did not have to interrupt the conversation.  We pursued it in two successive encounters, after some months, in the office of Civiltà Cattolica.  One time even with his friend and fellow Dominican, Fr. Jean Miguel Garrigues, who I have also interviewed for our journal.[1]  And the conversation, in the end, continued also in Vienna, at the Kardinal König Haus.  The interview that follows is the fruit of these encounters, that at the end took the form of a unitary dialogue.  I asked the Cardinal for a reflection tied strictly to his experience as a pastor.  And it is this pastoral inspiration that gives body and breath to his words.

Eminence, what was, in your view, the intention of the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod on the family?  There was talk of the joy of the family and the challenges of the family.

When Francis became pope, the theme of the successive Synod was already fixed by Pope Benedict: the general questions of Christian anthropology and bioethical questions.  During his first meeting with the Council of the Synod, Pope Francis immediately observed that it would be difficult to confront such questions outside of the framing based on the family and marriage, and, consequently, little by little the theme shifted, without disregarding the anthropological questions, but placing them in correlation with this original anthropology that is the Biblical teaching on man and woman, on their union, on their vocation and ond the great themes of marriage and the family.

But why return to a theme that St John Paul II had treated more or less exhaustively in the course of the 27 years of his pontificate?

I think that Pope Francis wanted, first of all, to encourage us—and he has repeated it many times—to look to the beauty and vital importance of marriage and family with the view of the Good Shepherd who was close to everyone.  He put into motion this synodos, this common journey, in which we are all called to observe the situation, not with a look from above, beginning from abstract ideas, but with the look of pastors who perceive today’s reality in a gospel spirit.  This look on the familiar and matrimonial reality is not, first of all, a critical look that underlines every lack, but a benevolent look, that sees how much good will and how many challenges exist, while in the midst of so much suffering.  Basically, we are asked for an act of faith: to bring ourselves close to the diverse crowd without fear of being touched.

In the convocation of the Synod, can we therefore read a desire for concreteness, for closeness…

Yes, the desire to look to concrete people in their joys and sufferings, in the sadness and anxiety of their daily life and to bring them to the Good News, discovering that they live the Gospel in the midst of so many pains, but also with so much generosity.  We must detach ourselves from our books and go into the midst of the crowd and let ourselves be touched by the life of the people.  To see them and know their situations, more or less unstable, beginning from deep desire written in the hearts of everyone.  It is the Ignation method: seeking the presence and action of God in the smallest details of daily life.  We are still distant from having realized this hope made by Pope Francis.  We haven’t even reached this Leggi tutto “Cardinal Schönborn: marriage and pastoral conversion. My interview.”