Durban-Linz (kath.net/rn/pl) “I expect Pope Francis to throw clear light on what married couples need to do in order to build up good strong marriages via the Sacrament of Matrimony and a well-organized Family life that emphasizes prayer, devotions and the Sacraments all celebrated together as a Family!”, said Wilfried Cardinal Napier OFM, Archbishop of Durban/South Afrika, in an interview with kath.net. Napier, who for seven years was the president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference and was strongly envolved in South Africa´s transformation from apartheid to democracy. kath.net interrogated the 74 years old cardinal not only about his impressions at the Bishops Synode, but also on the growth of the African churches.
kath.net: The synod is now over, the results of the synod have been published. What do You think is Pope Francis now doing with this results? What can we expect?
Cardinal Napier: As I look back over the last two Synods, I am able to identify a clear development from a strong focus on the problems and challenges facing the Family, to a closer look at what God expects of the Family which he established right at the beginning, which he called to nurture and care for children and then sent to build up the Church and Society.
While many interventions still highlighted two problems in particular most Synod fathers kept the theme in mind and so concentrated on what the Church needs to do to clarify for the Families that theirs is a real calling from God - to increase and multiply in order to take care of all God’s creation.
I therefore expect Pope Francis to throw clear light on what married couples need to do in order to build up good strong marriages via the Sacrament of Matrimony and a well-organized Family life that emphasizes prayer, devotions and the Sacraments all celebrated together as a Family!
We should expect a strong reaffirmation of the Church’s teaching with strong emphasis on preparation and accompaniment of newlyweds and those in difficult situations.
kath.net: The media coverage - at least in USA and Europe - focused strongly on divorced remarried Catholics. Do you think there were other main topics of the Bishop´s Synod that were not adequately mentioned in media coverage?
Cardinal Napier: When you consider that the theme was “The vocation” and the mission of the Family in the Church and in modern society” the western media’s obsession with civilly remarried divorcees and homosexual “marriages / families”, you can’t help suspecting that they were obviously driving an agenda.
My reading of the Synod, and this comes through in the final document, is that most Synod Fathers, in particular those from Africa, wanted the Synod to take preventative steps by thorough preparation and careful accompaniment of young people in general, through good catechesis; of newlyweds through the first 5 - 7 years, as well as those with special circumstances – divorced and remarried, those families with same sex attraction members, families of single parents, families led by children.
kath.net: What was your personal key topic in this year´s synod?
Cardinal Napier: My key topics were thorough preparation via catechesis that is largely discernment of one’s vocation, whether it is to marriage, priesthood, religious life or the single state. In essence, such marriage preparation is learning how to develop, nurture and live good healthy relationships with others according to the vocation God has given to each one.
The second theme of interest was accompaniment through which the Church helps those entering new stages of life, to cope with the main problems and challenges of each stage.
kath.net: The Synod was marked by a quite unusual open discussion, some remarks not only of lay people but even of cardinals sounded surprisingly harsh. Was this a normal development?
Cardinal Napier: An outstanding characteristic of the Synod sessions ever since Pope Francis urged us to speak openly and honestly, but to listen humbly, has been the openness and frankness of the discussions, in the Synod Hall but especially in the small discussion groups.
Personally, I heard very frank and honest talk but not the harshness, which I heard happened in other groups.
I did not however detect any ill feeling or animosity in the Synod Hall, even when there was disagreement.
kath.net: In Africa the Catholic Church is a growing Church, in Europe we have especially in the German speaking countries a big decline of churchgoers. Why is the Catholic Church in Africa a growing community? What is the mysterium?
Cardinal Napier: When you look at Africa, especially from the point of view of human development, social organization and political life, you will appreciate immediately why Africans by and large, have a very strong sense that they need God. It is much easier to recognize and acknowledge where and how He has intervened in your life. That awareness makes it so much easier to accept and practice the religion that brings you into communion with Him.
kath.net: What can we European Catholics learn from You?
Napier: What can Europe and the West learn from us? That is very difficult to say because the global culture tends to dominate so much that most of the time we are learning from you how to become more self-reliant or even self – sufficient, which is a short jump away from saying, “I don’t really need God!” You can and should learn how to recognize your need for God!
Perhaps the West could and would be open to learn from us if it spent more time looking at what really makes us human beings more truly the image and likeness of God.
And that means turning more earnestly towards the Word of God in the Scriptures, the Teaching of the Church derived from them, and especially a way of life that makes a big place and space for Jesus Christ as a real person and presence in us and in our life.
This interview in German translation: Napier: 'Starke Wiederbekräftigung der Lehre der Kirche erwarten'.
Cardinal Napier 2014