by PETER HEBBLETHWAITE, S.J.
CARDINAL SUENENS scored a modest "first" when in London last week. He became the first Cardinal to be interviewed on brash, exciting Radio London. This, it is true. is no very remarkable feat, since the new programme had only been in existence a week and a half. But the interview, and a subsequent conversation, threw much light on his thinking.
He rejected, not without some indignation, the holdall journalistic labels: "the Rebel Cardinal." "Romewrecker" and suchlike. "If I sometimes feel bound to say aloud." he explained, "what others are merely thinking, it is out of 'love for the Church and from a desire to make a positive contribution in the fullest communion with the Pope."
He has criticised the way things are organised, not pertons, the car rather than its iriver. There is no edge of 3itterness in his criticism, still less the "disappointed imbition" laughably attributed to him by the hostile. .ele is a practical Belgian. Out of the tradition which produced both those tough Flemish mystics and the technocrats of the Common Market. His concern is to shape the Church into a more effec live, and more credible, instrument for the service of God in the world today—and tomorrow.
He is many-sided. It might embarrass some of his more vociferous supporters to learn that lie will be going to Zagreb in Croatia for the International Congress on Mariology. That has been an abiding interest. Less stirprising is his active interest in ecumenism. One of his predecessors was. after all, Cardinal Mercier. Thereby hangs an ecumenical talc.
Mercier sent a cordial reply to the "Appeal to All Christian People" issued by the 1920 Lambeth Conference. This prompted Lord Halifax, then at a great age, abetted by the enthusiastic Abbe. Portal, to arrange talks about talks which led eventually to the Malines Conversations. They took place annually for five years until 1926. They were not a vast success.
Stephen Neill, in a book published in 1953, wrote: "It is not easy to assess the value of the Malines Conversations. Today, both on the Anglican and the Roman side, there is a clear conviction that they must not be repeated" (4 History of the frumeniral M o v em en t S.P.C.K. p. 299). This faulty 1967.
It has been falsified by history. Cardinal Suenens interprets the Malines conversations, with hindsight, as a courageous and prophetic anticipation of a dialogue that was to become worldwide within fifty years. It also illustrates for him the difference between the "difficut" and the "impossible." "A difficult matter is something you can deal with at once," said Cardinal Suenens with a throwaway smile: "but when you are dealing with the impossible you have to wait a while." In the Malines tradition he finds "a sort of invitation of Providence."
There are now many bonds forged between MalinesBrussels and Canterbury. Dr. Ramsey has visited Brussels and lectured at Louvain. Cardinal Suenens has been to Lambeth several times. He lunched there last week. In March they together cave lectures on "The Future of appreciation is found. without emendation. in the sec and edition published in the Church" at the Trinity Institute in New York. These lectures will be published later this year. Cardinal Suenens' next visit to England will be at Easter when he will attend a Conference of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin. Another practical link will soon be established. Canon John Satterthwaite, who accompanied Dr. Fisher and then Dr. Ramsey on their visits to the Vatican. is to become Bishop of Fulham with special responsibility— ever unpredictable Fulhamfor Anglicans in Europe. He will have an office in Brussels. And the Belgium bishops have presented him with his episcopal ring. Details perhaps, but brush strokes of the future.
December 1.6 will see the 25th anniversary of Cardinal Suenens' own ordination as a bishop. The event will be marked by a concelebrated Mass with the Belgian bishops and priests from the Council of Priests; the Pastoral Council will have its part to play; the Nuncio, Archbishop Cardinale, will also be there: a living expression of co-responsibility on all levels. This special fund opened for the anniversary will be devoted to ecumenical purposes.
Of course there are obstacles. At the recent Concilium Congress in Brussels, the Cardinal spoke of the "pilgrims towards unity" being "on the move," and added: "But we are still in the desert." However, he does not think that the canonisation of the Forty Martyrs should be one of the obstacles. He would prefer to interpret it positively. The martyrs died for their faith and for freedom of conscience. These are values which all Christians, and indeed all men of good will, ought to be able to appreciate and honour. Provided that the note of common repentance is struck.
Cardinal Suenens is no dreamer. but like Martin Luther King, he has his dream. He likes to put it in the following way. There is a threefold stream in the Christian tradition: the Church of Peter with its tradition of unity and communion; the Church of John, apostle of contemplation and love; the Church of Paul. the tireless promoter of the liberty of the children of God and openness to all nations. beyond all legalism. One can see the Roman Catholic, the Orthodox and the Protestant Churches as reflecting these traditions, provided no rigid distinction is made. All three elements should be found in all Christian Churches. They must be re-assembled in any renewed vision of the Church.
Cardinal Suenens admits that this has an aspect of poetry, metaphor. dream. But it could lead, possibly, to a Second Council of Jeru TIte Canadian Register, a clerical newspaper. found this simple idea outrageous, revealing "impatience rather than wisdom." But for Cardinal Suenens, the sober dreamer. the dream extends the range of the imaeinable. And therefore of the possible.