"Society evolves and the Church has to realise this. The Church can make its point of view heard, but it no longer has the means to impose it on society," he told Le Soir newspaper in the interview published Thursday.
"We are reduced to the role of a prophet who shouts, who says 'this is not fair' but who is not always heard by the people," he said, adding that the Church should nevertheless not keep quiet.
"That would be a great error, a sin," he said.
Archbishop of Malines-Brussels and head of the Church in Belgium for over 30 years, Danneels is considered a progressive among the college of cardinals that chooses the pope. He will remain a member of the college until the age of 80.
Pope Benedict XVI is expected to decide in coming days who will succeed Danneels, who has been criticised by the Vatican for doing too little to promote the Church's views on sensitive social issues such as abortion.
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