By Ann Marie Foley - 18 January, 2018
Pope Francis cautioned against clericalism and treating lay people as employees, in his meeting with Chilean Bishops in Santiago Cathedral Sacristy on Tuesday (16 January 2018).
“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 bishops. Without this consciousness of being a people, we will not be able to sustain our life, our vocation and our ministry,” he told the Bishops in Chile.
“The lack of consciousness of belonging to God’s people as servants, and not masters, 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.”
He said that failure to realise that the mission belongs to the entire Church, and not just to individual priests or bishops, stifles all that the Holy Spirit may be awakening, and added, “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.”
He explained that seminaries and the process of formation ensure that future priests are capable of serving God’s people, acknowledging diversity and renouncing clericalism. “Since their ministry will be carried out in a secularised 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”.
He said that their mission is carried out in unity with the whole People of God. They should support and encourage the laity in a climate of discernment and “synodality”. “Let us say no to clericalism, and to ideal worlds that are only part of our thinking, but touch the life of no one,” he said.
He urged the bishops to ask the Holy Spirit for the gifts to discern and know how to channel customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and ecclesial structures, for “the evangelisation of Chile, rather than for ecclesiastical self-preservation.”
He called on the bishops not to be afraid to strip themselves of everything that keeps them from the missionary mandate.
On the first full day of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Visit to Chile, he was in Santiago where he spoke to government authorities, celebrated Mass, visited a women’s prison, met with priests and religious, as well as meeting with Chile’s bishops.
Pope Francis also met a small group of victims of sexual abuse by the clergy in the Apostolic Nunciature in Santiago. At the strictly private meeting only the Pope and the victims were present.