A Conversation with Cardinal Schonborn on ‘Amoris Laetitia’

Antonio Spadaro, SJ

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When conversing with the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, a space for calm and attentive reflection is created. Personifying lucidity of thought and spiritual depth, he follows the charism of the Order of Preachers, the Dominicans, and our conversation could be summarized in Aquinas’ motto, Contemplataaliistradere, “transmit to others the things that have been contemplated.” Our conversation was, in fact, a transmission and sharing of reasoning verified in prayer, anything but abstract intellectual or academic theses. The tone and the rhythm of the conversation reflected this contemplative dimension.

On April 8, 2016, the cardinal presented Amoris Laetitia (AL) during the official press conference at the Holy See’s Press Room. Soon after, on April 16, during a press conference on the return flight to Rome from Lesbos, Pope Francis himself affirmed that the archbishop of Vienna had fully understood and spoken correctly about the meaning of the exhortation. The pontiff repeated his judgment in public on a number of occasions, so we can say that the cardinal’s words concerning the document have a certain authority.

I had already interviewed him for La Civiltà Cattolica[1] just before the ordinary synod of October 2015, and on that occasion too our conversation developed during a series of encounters at the offices of the journal and over an exchange of texts.[2]

Your Eminence, what were your feelings when you read Amoris Laetitia? What was its effect on you?

The pope’s text struck me with its simplicity and how it tasted like the Gospel. Its freshness reminded me of that first “Buona sera!” he greeted the people with in St Peter’s Square when he was elected. The text is able to welcome. In reading it, I receive the goodness of the Good Shepherd who reaches out to families in their real life situations, aware that with all their hopes and imperfections, they are places of love, the door through which fraternity and friendship enter the world, a sign of the indestructible faithfulness of God to his covenant.

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