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‘Steer clear’ of triumphalism, Belgian cardinal tells African bishops

November 13, 2015

In an interview with La Stampa’s Vatican Insider, Cardinal Godfried Danneels directed pointed words to bishops in Africa.

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Advising “everyone to steer clear of all forms of triumphalism and claims to self-sufficiency,” the retired archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels said:

Some African bishops tell us: you are pagans. You wiped everything out. But I remember Belgium being full of vocations, there were huge seminaries and novitiates being built up until the 60s. Christian families did everything they could to give their children a sense of belonging in the Church.

But we started seeing the faith dwindling in boys and girls aged 17-20. This wounded them it caused great suffering. Is it right to say it was their fault and that the parents were not good Christians? No, that’s not the case. The act of becoming Christians and persevering in the faith remains a mystery and is not the result of some educational or sociological mechanism. It seems to me that all the talk about “robust” Churches that should save the rest of Catholicism, is for the purpose of ecclesiastical politics. The abstractness of it is striking.

Cardian Danneels added:

European Churches have been overrun by the effects of secularization that have also led to rising individualism. But this very individualism could reach Africa sooner or later: that phenomenon that sees people thinking of themselves as individuals rather than as members of a group, a community, or a mass. It is possible that the crisis we have had will spread there too, with all that this entails. Africans may also experience a situation similar to ours. Then they might call us up to see how we dealt with it. To get some useful tips.


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Show 10 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Bernadette - Nov. 14, 2015 8:57 PM ET USA

    What do you mean, Cardinal? With all due respect for your office, "How DID you deal with it?" I don't see you admitting any responsibility for the loss of faith, any wrongdoing. You allowed dissent in our universities and you no longer taught the faith in its fullness and with zeal and conviction. You can't blame the culture; we make the culture. You were to lead the Church counter-culturally; but instead, you joined the culture. And now we are suffering the evil effects of your treachery.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Nov. 14, 2015 8:29 PM ET USA

    Smug Europeans who are foolish enough to think that Africans will descend to the European gutter of apathy.

  • Posted by: Jerz - Nov. 14, 2015 11:03 AM ET USA

    We are in a bad state when someone throws out the term "individualism" and expects everyone to recognize it as a bad thing. Maybe he meant "egoism." We all have to give an individual account.

  • Posted by: wsw33410 - Nov. 14, 2015 6:33 AM ET USA

    And this divisive liberal man, who failed as a spiritual leader in Belgium, was personally invited by Francis to the Synod!! No wonder people are running away from the Catholic Church.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 13, 2015 10:03 PM ET USA

    Let's hope that the bishops of Africa can help their flocks stay faithful to church teaching.

  • Posted by: nix898049 - Nov. 13, 2015 6:37 PM ET USA

    Useful tips on throwing in the towel, no doubt.

  • Posted by: filioque - Nov. 13, 2015 6:25 PM ET USA

    Coming from Card. Danneels, this is really rich. So tell us, your Eminence, just how have you dealt with the crisis of secularization in Europe? We are waiting for your tips.

  • Posted by: LittleRedHen - Nov. 13, 2015 5:53 PM ET USA

    'Get lost,' African bishops tell Belgian cardinal

  • Posted by: jonesd3170 - Nov. 13, 2015 12:39 PM ET USA

    It won't be long before one or more African Bishops will respond FAR MORE competently than I !!!

  • Posted by: jacquebquique5708 - Nov. 13, 2015 10:42 AM ET USA

    Cardinal Danneels has his own agenda. He is giving in to the environment while the African bishops to their credit are fighting it. Francis has made it plain that he is reaching out to divisive influences in the environment and embracing them. He believes in compassion before or without justice. The African bishops believe in justice before mercy. Danneels believes that the African bishops are in a pristine form of development. Of just such pristineness was the message of the Christ.