Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Francis Criticized Vatican at Conclave; Warned Bishops of the "Dangers of Stagnation"

By Andrea Rodriguez

Note: This article was first published March 26, 2013 by the Associated Press.

Pope Francis issued a strong critique of the church before the College of Cardinals just hours before it selected him as the new pontiff, according to comments published Tuesday by a Roman Catholic magazine in Cuba.

According to Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio urged the Vatican to eschew self-absorption and refocus its energies outward.

"The church is called on to emerge from itself and move toward the peripheries, not only geographic but also existential (ones): those of sin, suffering, injustice, ignorance and religious abstention, thought and all misery," Bergoglio said.

Ortega said Bergoglio's comments were made to cardinals as they gathered to select Benedict XVI's replacement, and reflect his vision of the contemporary Catholic Church. He said Bergoglio later gave him a handwritten version and permission to divulge its contents.

"Cardinal Bergoglio made a speech that I thought was masterful, insightful, engaging and true," Ortega said.

Ortega added that the remarks offer insight about the direction in which the new pope could take the church following his March 13 election.

In his statements, the future pontiff also warned of the dangers of stagnation.

"When the church does not emerge from itself to evangelize, it becomes self-referential and therefore becomes sick. ... The evils that, over time, occur in ecclesiastical institutions have their root in self-referentiality, a kind of theological narcissism." Bergoglio said.

He also criticized "a mundane church that lives within itself, of itself and for itself."

Finally Bergoglio said that whoever became the new pope should be "a man who ... helps the church to emerge from itself toward the existential outskirts."

Orgeta first revealed Bergoglio's comments in a weekend Mass, and they were published Tuesday on the website of Palabra Nueva magazine, along with a photo of the two men embracing after Bergoglio had donned the papal white robes and rechristened himself Francis.

Related Off-site Links:
Pope Francis Rejects Apostolic Palace, Will Live in Guest Apartment – Christopher Hale (Millennial, March 26, 2013).
Francis' Election Full of Symbols, Signs of New EraNational Catholic Reporter (March 23, 2013).
Something to Think AboutThe Wild Reed (March 24, 2013).

See also the previous PCV posts:
Reflections on a New Face
Francis the 'Slum Pope': Jorge Mario Bergoglio Remembered for Ministering to Buenos Aires' Poorest


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. He made a similar point in an interview published in 20 Giorni back in 2007. The translation linked below is a bit garbled at first but after the interviewer asked "Can you explain the image further", the Cardinal was clear, blunt, and prophetic.


  3. Conor, thanks for the link. What about this excerpt from it? Cardinal Bergoglio speaking: "So I then told the priests: «If you can, rent a garage and, if you find some willing layman, let him go there! Let him be with those people a bit, do a little catechesis and even give communion if they ask him». A parish priest said to me: «But Father, if we do this the people then won’t come to church». «But why?» I asked him: «Do they come to mass now?» «No», he answered. And so! Coming out of oneself is also coming out from the fenced garden of one’s own convictions, considered irremovable, if they risk becoming an obstacle, if they close the horizon that is also of God.
    This is valid also for lay people…
    BERGOGLIO: Their clericalization is a problem. The priests clericalize the laity and the laity beg us to be clericalized… It really is sinful abetment. And to think that baptism alone could suffice. I’m thinking of those Christian communities in Japan that remained without priests for more than two hundred years. When the missionaries returned they found them all baptized, all validly married for the Church and all their dead had had a Catholic funeral. The faith had remained intact through the gifts of grace that had gladdened the life of a laity who had received only baptism and had also lived their apostolic mission in virtue of baptism alone. One must not be afraid of depending only on His tenderness…"

  4. Yes, this is amazing coming from a Cardinal much less one who is now Pope. Based on the Associated Press article he made sure the College of Cardinals knew what they would be getting if they voted for him.