Pope Francis: “A Church without arguments is a dead church”; warns against clericalizing the laity

Vatican Radio) Pope Francis might add a visit to Kenya to his African trip in November, and protecting the environment is an issue which should bring together believers of all traditions and non-believers alike.

These were some of the things learned during a two-hour meeting Pope Francis held with priests in Rome’s Papal Basilica of St. John Lateran.  The Cathedral church is this week hosting an International retreat for priests, organized by International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services and the Catholic Fraternity.

Pope Francis confirmed he will visit the Central African Republic and Uganda during his November trip, but said adding Kenya to the journey was “possible but not sure” because of organizational problems.

The spiritual retreat beings together bishops, priests, and celibate deacons from around the world under the theme “Called to Holiness for a New Evangelization”.

Pope Francis gave off-the-cuff remarks in Spanish, and began by speaking about the importance of unity in the Church, even saying if a priest has a problem with his bishop, he should tell him to his face, “like men”, adding the same goes for a bishop with a problem with one of his priests.

“There are quarrels and arguments in the Church? Well, it makes good news! This is so since the beginning,” the Pope said. “A church without quarrels is a dead church. Do you know where there aren’t any quarrels? In cemeteries!”

“The courage of Paul to say things face to face. The courage of the disciples to meet and argue amongst themselves. What a beautiful formula this is: that shows the proximity between priests and bishops,” he said.  “It is shown by the Holy Spirit and to us because where there is closeness, there is the Spirit of God. And that is grace that needs to be asked for continuously, continuously, for each particular Church. The closeness between bishops and the priests, the faithful and priests with their faithful and their bishop.”

A Church without arguments, he continued, “is a dead Church.”

“You know where there are no arguments? In the cemetery! No one argues about anything there. Even the son-in-law puts flowers out for his mother-in law because they are not going to argue!” the Pope said, to which the priests and bishops laughed and applauded.

Pope Francis then made a special mention of the women working in the Church, remembering that on the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit, women were there.

He called the genius of women in the Church “a grace”, and pointed out the Church is feminine.

“The Church is the bride of Christ, and the Mother of the Holy People, the faithful of God” said the Pope. “I would like to thank the women for their cooperation, and do not forget that when you are confronted with certain feminist grievances, there is just one thing to say: Mary is more important than the Apostles.”

Pope Francis reminded the priests not to be too tired to visit the Tabernacle, where they will “find Love,” even when they do not know what to say to Him. He also asked them to begin writing their homilies on Tuesday, and to be wary of moralizing, was opposed to preaching the Gospel.

He said that when faced with a difficult question, especially when related to mercy, priests should ask themselves “what would Jesus do here?” He jokingly added that if they forgive too much, then they can blame Jesus, who “gave the bad example.”

He reminded them a priest does not have the right to not baptize a baby born of a single mother, or whose parents have been divorced and re-married.

The Pope also spoke about his experience of the Charismatic movement, saying that when he first encountered it, he thought they were “not right in the head”, but as he grew older he saw how wrong he was.

“I ask all of you, each of you, that as part of the stream of grace of the Charismatic Renewal planning seminars of life in the Spirit, in your parishes, in your seminaries and schools … share the Baptism of the Spirit and your catechesis, because it is produced by the work Holy Spirit through a personal encounter with Jesus, which changes lives.”

Pope Francis also warned against clericalism, saying that laypeople need to work in the Church but they should not be clericalized.  He added clericalism is like “a tango”: It is danced by two people, with complicity.

“The priest and the layman alike clericalize,” he said. “Because it is more comfortable.  Be attentive to the comfortable sin of clericalism.”

The Holy Father also remembered Christians being persecuted for their faith, and spoke about the Ecumenism of blood, saying Christians are united through martyrs who died for faith in the same Christ.

“Look at the martyrs of today,” said the Pope.  “Look at the blood of men and women who die for Jesus Christ and those who kill them know they are the same, having one thing in common: they believe in Jesus!”

After his reflection, the Pope answered questions by some of the priests present.

When asked about Africa, Pope Francis not only confirmed his trip in November, but added the rest of the world must stop going to Africa to “strip and steal” resources, but to invest in the continent, and this would end the need of people to emigrate.

When asked about Asia, the Pope said it had  “the biggest promise of the Church”, but mentioning it also suffers from problems like consumerism and materialism.

The Pope also confirmed a Catholic, an Orthodox Chrisitan, and an atheist will present his encyclical on the environment because “we need unity to protect creation.”

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