ROME, Italy, May 14, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The German-Brazilian cardinal appointed the relator general of the Amazonian Synod has emphasized that the Church will be asked to embrace “diversity” and novelties as a result of the October meeting.
According to the Catholic Herald, a relator general “is responsible for providing a comprehensive outline of (a) synod’s theme at the beginning of the meeting and for summarising the speeches of synod members before work begins on concrete proposals for the pope.”
In an interview with the editor of La Civiltà Cattolica magazine, Antonio Spadaro, SJ, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, 84, used the word “diversity” eight times to describe his vision of the unity of the Church.
In response to fears that the “upcoming synod might have repercussions on the unity of the Church,” Hummes said Church unity must welcome “diversity.”
“Today much is said about the unity of the Church,” Hummes stated. “It is of fundamental and utmost importance.”
“However, it has to be understood as a unity that welcomes diversity, following the model of the Most Holy Trinity,” the cardinal said.
“That is, it is equally necessary to highlight that unity can never destroy diversity. Concretely, the synod accentuates the diversity within that great unity. Diversity is the richness of unity, protecting it against becoming uniformity, against providing justifications to control.”
Hummes, who is the son of a German mother and German-Brazilian father, said Latin American diversity “has to be welcomed by the Church in Europe and the whole world without fear and with a great openness.”
The Catholic Church has existed in Latin America since the 16th century, but Hummes believes the “Church of Latin America can bring new lights to the European Church and to the world, while the Church in Europe has to give us ancient lights, which are very important.”
‘One culture alone cannot exhaust the richness of the Gospel’
Curiously, Hummus concentrated only on “Europe” in his discussion of inculturation, ignoring the other influential, and more ancient, Catholic communities such as as those of Asia Minor and North Africa, where the celibate monastic movement was born in the third century AD. The cardinal also spoke of European culture as if it were a traditional monolith, not several different cultures with geographically unique Catholic devotions and traditions that do not contradict orthodox faith.
“Initially, Christianity found a place for inculturation in European culture, and this good process has remained valid up until today,” he told Spadaro.
“But that one act of inculturation does not suffice. The pope says that one culture alone cannot exhaust the richness of the Gospel. The Church does not wish to dominate other cultures, but respects that initial European inculturation,” he continued.
Hummus then said the Church has to “appreciate the diversity of cultures” that will enrich and not undermine it.
“Diversity does not attack the unity of the Church; it strengthens it,” he continued and proceeded to link diversity with future novelties.
“It is important not to be afraid of these things. So if we speak among ourselves and manage to find new paths for the Church in Amazonia, this will be for the benefit of the whole Church,” Hummes said.
These “new paths” may include a change in the discipline regarding priestly celibacy and even include an entirely new way of thinking about the priesthood and sacramental ministry. Earlier this month, Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck, the head of the German bishops' Latin America commission, told reporters that the Amazonian Synod in Rome will lead to a “break” in the Church and that “nothing will be the same as as it was.”
Regarding the continuing mission to the indigenous people of the Amazon, Hummes said, “So often we worry about managing to transplant the European (sic) models of priesthood onto the indigenous priests. But someone has rightly noted that too much concern is given the profile of the ordained ministry, putting it before the community that receives it.”
The cardinal believes that some communities don’t need the “historical” model of the celibate male priest-missionary.
“Let us not spend ourselves defending a sort of historical figure that a minister has to align with, without possible variations, so that in this way the community must accept and keep it only because that is how we send it to them,” he said.
“Yes, ministers are to be sent, but we have to know how to send them, in a way that respects the concrete community with its own specific needs. Ministers should be thought out starting from the community: from its culture, its history, its needs. This is what openness means.”
Changes made for the sake of ministry to the Amazonian countries of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana and French Guyana will have “universal repercussions,” Hummes said, but the Synod will focus on the needs of Amazonia.
“It is clear that its entire process has and will have universal repercussions, but the synod has an aim that needs to be focused so not to remain generic,” he told Spadaro.
“Pope Francis was very clear on this: do not lose sight of the objection, which is Amazonia. ‘New paths for the Church’ means new paths for the Church in Amazonia …”
The Amazonian Synod will also focus on environmental concerns through the lens of Pope Francis’ new “integral ecology.” While discussing the relationship between Jesus Christ and the natural world, Hummes cited both the pontiff and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ.
“The most important aspect of integral ecology, (Francis) has said, is that God became definitively related to this earth in Jesus Christ,” Hummes explained, “and Jesus is the culminating point we are all journeying toward.”
Hummes said creation was not “made for us” and that its “final purpose is transcendent: it is God.”
“In fact, one day all of them, in a mysterious way, in the logic of the resurrection, will take part in the definitive Kingdom. God will not destroy his creation, but will transform it in an Easter sense,” the cardinal said.
Cardinal Hummes is known to be a proponent of married priests. According to liberation theologian Leonardo Boff, the Brazilian cardinal requested permission for priests who had left ministry and married to be allowed to return to active service. In 2014, he suggested that the Church might rethink its stance on female ordination.
Also in 2014, Hummes caused an uproar when he was asked if Jesus would be in favor of gay marriage if he “were alive (sic) today.” The cardinal replied, “I don’t know. I formulate no hypothesis on this.”
More recently, Hummes has dismissed the cardinals who issued the dubia concerning Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia, saying in 2016, “We (other cardinals) are 200; they are only four.”