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Former Belgian primate discusses synod, success in fostering vocations

December 30, 2015

In an interview with a French Catholic weekly magazine, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard reflected upon his five years as Primate of Belgium and Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels.

The prelate’s predecessor, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, led the see from 1979 until 2010. On December 12, Archbishop Josef De Kesel was installed as Archbishop Léonard’s successor.

Asked to comment on the steep rise in the number of seminarians-- from four in 2010 to 55 in 2015-- Archbishop Léonard told Famille chrétienne that he spoke with prospective seminarians personally rather than referring them to the vocation office: “a man who wants to give his life to Christ, a bishop must receive him!”

Asked how he swam against the tide when he faced opposition on account of his fidelity to the Church’s teaching, Archbishop Léonard quoted St. Paul (“do not be conformed to this world”) and said that he would have been concerned if he had not faced criticism, since “Jesus did not promise us success, but rather contradiction.”

Commenting on the recent Synod of Bishops, in which he did not take part, Archbishop Léonard said that he was “disappointed” that the final document had “ambiguity in the most delicate points.”

“I would find it extremely risky if Western countries could have a more flexible discipline,” he added. “What image would give it the Church” if the wealthiest Christians “may also have a more comfortable discipline? It would be a great scandal!”

Discussing his act of consecration of the faithful to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on December 8, he said that Belgium “received two official visits of Mary at Beauraing and Banneux. If Mary took the trouble to bother twice to visit this country, it is probably because it has great need.”


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