Pope: the secular state is a good thing, but laicism is old-fashioned

In an interview with a Belgian weekly, Francis criticises laicism that “closes the doors to transcendence”, which instead is part of the human essence. "[N]o religion as such can foment war. Because in this case it would be proclaiming a god of destruction, a god of hatred." Synodality does not mean “descend[ing] from high to low”; it means instead “listen[ing] to the Churches, harmonis[ing] them, discern[ing]."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis gave an interview to the Belgian Catholic weekly Tertio. In it, he noted that “In general, a secular State is a good thing; [. . .] better than a confessional State” but the laicism that “closes the doors to transcendence” is “an old-fashioned mindset” that forgets that “transcendence is part of the human essence.” The Holy Father also spoke about the fruits of the Jubilee and the "synodality" of the Church.

Francis spoke about secularism in his answer to a question about today’s separation between religion and public life.  “I do not want to offend anyone,” he said, “but this is an old-fashioned mindset. This is the legacy that the Enlightenment has left to us – is it not? – in which every religious phenomenon is a subculture. It is the difference between laicism and secularism.”

“Vatican Council II tells us about the autonomy of things, of processes and institutions. There is a healthy secularism, for instance, the secularism of the State. In general, a secular State is a good thing; it is better than a confessional State, because confessional States finish badly. But secularism is one thing, and laicism is another. Laicism closes the doors to transcendence, to the dual transcendence: both transcendence towards others and, above all, transcendence towards God; or towards what is beyond us. And openness to transcendence is part of the human essence. It is part of man. I am not speaking about religion; I am speaking about openness to transcendence. Therefore, a culture or a political system that does not respect openness to the transcendence of the human person ‘prunes’ or cuts down the human person. Or rather, it does not respect the human person.”

Answering a question about war and religious fundamentalism, Francis said that “no religion as such can foment war. Because in this case it would be proclaiming a god of destruction, a god of hatred. One cannot wage war in the name of God [. . .]. War cannot be waged in any religion. And for this reason terrorism and war are not related to religion. Religion is distorted to justify them [. . .]. [A]ll religions have fundamentalist groups. All of them, we do too. [. . .] [T]hey cause division in communities, which is a form of war.”

As for the Jubilee of Mercy, Francis said that he believes that the idea " came from on high", [. . .] inspired by the Lord. And evidently it went very well”. It “created a lot of movement” and “people felt called to reconcile themselves with God”.

Speaking about synodality, the pontiff said that “The Church is born from the community, it is born from the foundation, it is born from Baptism, and it is organised around a bishop, who brings it together and gives it strength. [. . .] Therefore, either there is a pyramidal Church, in which what Peter says is done, or there is a synodal Church, in which Peter is Peter but he accompanies the Church. [. . .] The richest experience of all this was that of the last two Synods” dedicated to the family. “There, all the bishops of the world were heard [. . .], all the Churches of the world, the dioceses, worked. [. . .] It is interesting to see the rich variety of nuances, typical of the Church. It is unity in diversity. This is synodality.”

“Do not descend from high to low, but listen to the Churches, harmonise them, discern. And so there is a post-Synodal exhortation, which is Amoris Laetitia, which is the result of two Synods, in which all the Church worked, and which the Pope made his own. [. . .] A synodal Church means that there is this movement from high to low [. . .]. But there is a Latin phrase, that says that the Churches are always cum Petro et sub Petro. Peter is the guarantor of the unity of the Church. He is the guarantor.”

“This is the meaning. And it is necessary to progress in synodality, which is one of the things that the Orthodox have conserved. And also the Oriental Catholic Churches. It is a richness of theirs”.