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Pope blasts clericalism

Vatican (SE): Pope Francis had strong words for the Church hierarchy of his home continent of South America as he warned, “we’ve generated a ‘laical elite,’ believing that commitment is working on priestly things and have forgotten, neglected the believers often burning their hope in the daily struggle of living the faith.”

In a letter released by the Vatican on April 26 and addressed to Marc Cardinal Ouellet, the president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, the pope wrote, “I remember the famous expression: ‘It is the hour of the laity,’ but it seems that the clock has stopped. Watching the People of God is to remember that we all entered the Church as laity.”

The pope said, “It is never the shepherd who tells the laity what they have to do or say (in public life), they know it as well or even better than us.” 

The letter is a follow-up to commission’s plenary assembly held earlier this year under theme, The indispensable role of the lay faithful in the public life of Latin American countries.

Pope Francis stressed that empowering the laity to become the real protagonists is not “a concession of our good will,” because it is their right. 

“The laity are a part of the holy, faithful people of God and for this reason, the protagonists of the Church and the world, whom we’re called to serve and not by whom we’re to be served,” he wrote.

The pope said it is not possible to ignore “one of the strongest problems that Latin America has to face—and I ask you to pay special attention to this—clericalism.”

Clericalism, the pope stressed, “nullifies the personality of Christians” and it also “leads to the functionalisation of the laity, treating them as ‘errand boys (or girls)’.”

The pope warned the hierarchy against the temptation to think of a committed lay person as someone who does the work of the Church or things for the parish or the diocese. He wrote that the Church must recognise the lay person “for their own reality, for their own identity, for being immersed in the heart of social, public and political life.”

Pope Francis wrote, “Our role, our joy, the joy of the shepherd is precisely in helping and stimulating, as many did before us, so that it’s the mothers, the grandmothers, the fathers who become the true protagonists of history.” 

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