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Synod has revealed the strength of the African Church, says cardinal

Cardinal Vincent Nichols talks with Pope Francis at the extraordinary Synod of Bishops last year (CNS)

Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said the Synod of Bishops on the family has shown the “strength” of the African Church through the testimony its Church leaders have given.

He made the remark in an interview with Salt and Light television.

The cardinal said the Synod of Bishops, an institution created 50 years ago, had helped “break open” the Eurocentrism of the Church.

“Traditionally, historically, the strong points of the Church have either been in Europe or spread from Europe and I think the Synod of Bishops has shown us how much strength and resources there are in the Church all around the world,” he said.

This synod, he added, demonstrated the strength of the African Church in particular.

He said the lesson he had picked up from African leaders was that a marriage was not only about two people.

“If marriage and the family is seen as primarily and even exclusively involving two people in the marriage and then two people building a family then that’s a very impoverished notion,” he said.

“What we hear again and again from the African contributors is [that it’s] the coming together of two families. That gives it enormous strength because the resources of two families are there when things get difficult,” the cardinal said.

In Britain, he said, the problems facing the family at the moment were “more to do with the demands of an economy coming out of a recession, the high cost of living, high cost of housing – that’s what is putting the biggest pressure on families”. He added: “In England we have families in work who can barely afford to feed themselves properly.”

An added pressure, the cardinal said, was a culture of “easy sex and a reluctance to give commitment”.

“Most think there is nothing that is irreversible in life … And then they get a shock when there’s a pregnancy because that’s irreversible, in all honesty, unless you go down the road of abortion and kill a human life.

“So it’s that sense of, we really want to be in charge of everything and make everything temporary. And when that’s the popular culture it’s difficult to sustain a lifetime commitment.”

During the interview Cardinal Nichols also said Pope Francis was giving a “boost” to the faith of English Catholics.

“The wonderful fact is that Pope Francis can do little wrong,” he said. “He is constantly a positive news story. Which is wonderful for us and it gives everyone a boost in their faith and a greater confidence in getting out there and living it.”

He said top British businessman had told him they wanted to “imitate Pope Francis” in order to repair the reputation of business. One told him: “I think we need to get out and wash a few feet.”