“The laypersons don’t have to parrot back whatever we say”

By Andrea Tornielli
La Stampa / Vatican Insider
January 16, 2018

Francis meets the Episcopal Conference of Chile

Francis meets the Episcopal Conference of Chile and denounces the risk of clericalism in the Chilean Church, “Let us be on guard, please, against this temptation, especially in seminaries”. As pastors “we are part of God’s people, not an élite”  

In the last meeting of his first intense Chilean day (five appointments and five speeches), Pope Francis met briefly the bishops of the country in the cathedral of Santiago de Chile. A short meeting that becomes an opportunity to recall the hierarchies not to fall into clericalism and to consider themselves part of God’s people, without treating the laity as "peons" who must "parrot back whatever" bishops and priests say.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Pope greeted the world's oldest bishop, 102-year-old Bernardino Piñera Carvallo, who participated as a conciliar father in the four sessions of Vatican II. 

Francis then stressed the importance of the fatherhood of the bishop with his presbyterate, "A fatherhood that neither paternalism nor authoritarianism, but a gift to be sought. Stay close to your priests, like Saint Joseph”. 

He therefore called for the recovery of the conscience of "being a people", "One of the problems facing our societies today is the sense of being orphaned, the feeling of not belonging to anyone. This “postmodern” feeling can seep into us and into our clergy. We begin to think that we belong to no one; we forget that we are part of God’s holy and faithful people and that the Church is not, nor will it ever be, an élite of consecrated men and women, priests and bishopsWithout this consciousness of being a people we will not be able to sustain our life, our vocation and our ministry”.

 The lack of consciousness of belonging to God’s people as servants, and not masters – the Pope added - can lead us to one of the temptations that is most damaging to the missionary outreach that we are called to promote: clericalism, which ends up as a caricature of the vocation we have received".

“A failure to realize that the mission belongs to the entire Church, and not to the individual priest or bishop - Bergoglio said again - limits the horizon, and even worse, stifles all the initiatives that the Spirit may be awakening in our midst. Let us be clear about this. The laypersons are not our peons, or our employees. They don’t have to parrot back whatever we say".

"Let us be on guard, please, against this temptation, especially in seminaries and throughout the process of formation - Francis urged - Seminaries must stress that future priests be capable of serving God’s holy faithful people, acknowledging the diversity of cultures and renouncing the temptation to any form of clericalism. The priest is a minister of Jesus Christ: Jesus is the protagonist who makes himself present in the entire people of God.” 

“Tomorrow's priests - he concluded - must be trained with a view to the future, since their ministry will be carried out in a secularized world. This in turn demands that we pastors discern how best to prepare them for carrying out their mission in these concrete circumstances and not in our “ideal worlds or situations”. Their mission is carried out in fraternal unity with the whole People of God. Side by side, supporting and encouraging the laity in a climate of discernment and synodality, two of the essential features of the priest of tomorrow. 

"Let us say no to clericalism and to ideal worlds that are only part of our thinking, but touch the life of no one.”


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