Cardinal Angelo Scola celebrated his 80th birthday on Nov. 7 and consequently lost the right to vote in the next conclave. At the same time, The Catholic University of America Press published the English edition of his biographical interview book, Betting on Freedom: My Life in the Church, written with the Italian journalist Luigi Geninazzi.
In this exclusive interview with America’s Vatican correspondent, the cardinal spoke about some of the topics that he develops in depth in the book, including his close relationship with Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, his joyful time as a bishop over 26 years and his concern at the decline of the Christian faith in Europe.
Pope Francis’ leadership style: ‘A healthy punch in the stomach’
Cardinal Scola remarks in his book that “the appearance of Francis as pope has been a healthy punch in the stomach that the Holy Spirit has used to wake us up.” When I asked to explain this comment, he said that he viewed Francis’ election from the perspective of “our churches in Europe that are tired. His personality, his formation, his experience—particularly at Aparecida, where Bergoglio emerged with force and came to our attention. Moreover, his way of personally reaching out to people can even thaw some situations and raise up the church in Europe, which is suffering from tiredness.”
While “there are many beautiful experiences in the church in Europe, there is a real decline in true participation in the life of the church and a decline of the figure of Jesus among our people and especially a decline in their belonging to the Christian community,” Cardinal Scola said. “So, it seemed to me, right from the beginning, that Francis’ style of pontificate was like a punch in the stomach from the Holy Spirit to wake us up.”
To continue reading this interview, click here.
Gerard O’Connell is America’s Vatican correspondent and author of The Election of Pope Francis: An Inside Story of the Conclave That Changed History. He has been covering the Vatican since 1985.
With thanks to America Magazine and Gerard O’Connell, where this article originally appeared.