How do you see the situation of the Church?

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini: The Church is tired in prosperous Europe and in America. Our culture has grown old, our churches are large, our religious houses are empty and the bureaucratic apparatus of the Church is becoming bloated, our rites and our garments are pompous. But do these things express what we are today? (…)

At least we could seek out men who are free and closer to their neighbors, as were Archbishop Romero and the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador. Where among us are the heroes from whom we can draw inspiration? For no reason should we limit them with the bonds of the institution.

Who can help the Church today?

Cardinal Martini meets Alexi II, Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Moscow and All Russia, during a European ecumenical assembly held in Graz (Austria), in 1997.

Martini: Father Karl Rahner readily used the image of the coals that are hidden under the ashes. I see in the Church of today so much ash on top of the coals that I am often assailed by a sense of powerlessness. How can the coals be freed from the ashes so as to reinvigorate the flame of love? First of all, we must seek out these coals. Where are the individual persons full of generosity like the good Samaritan? Who have faith like the Roman centurion? Who are enthusiastic like John the Baptist? Who have a daring for novelty like Paul? Who are faithful like Mary Magdalene? I advise the Pope and the bishops to seek out 12 persons not of the common mold for managerial positions…

What tools do you recommend against the weariness of the Church?

Martini: I recommend three that are very powerful. The first is conversion: the Church must recognize her own errors and must undertake a radical journey of change, beginning with the Pope and the bishops. The scandals of pedophilia drive us to undertake a journey of conversion. The questions about sexuality and about all of the topics that involve the body are an example of this. These are important for everyone, and at times they may even be too important. We must ask if the people still listen to the counsels of the Church in sexual matters. Is the Church still an authority of reference in this area, or only a caricature in the media?

The second [is] the Word of God. Vatican Council II gave the Bible back to Catholics. (…) Only those who perceive this word in their hearts can be part of those who will assist the renewal of the Church…

For whom do the sacraments exist? These are the third instrument of healing. The sacraments are not an instrument for discipline, but an aid for men in the moments of the journey and in the weaknesses of life. Do we take the sacraments to men who require new strength? I am thinking of all of the divorced and of remarried couples, of expanded families. These have need of special protection… How can the Church, with the power of the sacraments, come to the aid of those who have complex family situations?

What are you doing personally?

Martini: The Church is 200 years behind the times. Why in the world does it not rouse herself? Are we afraid? Fear instead of courage?

In any case, faith is the foundation of the Church. Faith, trust, courage. I am old and sick, and I depend on the help of others.

Good people around me make me feel love. This love is stronger than the sentiment of distrust that I sometimes perceive toward the Church in Europe.

Only love overcomes weariness. God is love.


(From Corriere della Sera of September 1, 2012)


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