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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Missional Pope?

I believe that where Pope Benedict grew attention from theologians in the Christian world, the new pope will be an object of admiration and analysis for those involved in the missional action of the Church. What a cursory examination of Cardinal Bergoglio’s career demonstrates is a profound desire to see the gospel unleashed as Good News for all, and a willingness to stand in prophetic word and action to bring that Gospel to all. Here are some of the highlights from speeches and articles.

From a February 2012 interview with Vatican Insider:

the entire continent is a missionary state…the paradigmatic aspect remains: all ordinary activities of the Church take place in view of the mission. This signifies very strong tensions between centre and periphery, between parish and district. We need to come out of ourselves and head for the periphery. We need to avoid the spiritual sickness of a Church that is wrapped up in its own world: when a Church becomes like this, it grows sick. It is true that going out onto the street implies the risk of accidents happening, as they would to any ordinary man or woman. But is the Church stays wrapped up in itself, it will age. And if I had to choose between a wounded Church that goes out onto the streets and a sick withdrawn Church, I would definitely choose the first one…

We seek to make contact with families that are not involved in the parish.  Instead of just being a Church that welcomes and receives, we try to be a Church that comes out of itself and goes to the men and women who do not participate in parish life, do not know much about it and are indifferent towards it. We organise missions in public squares where many people usually gather: we pray, we celebrate mass, we offer baptism which we administer after a brief preparation. This is the style of the parishes and the diocese itself. Other than this, we also try to reach out to people who are far away, via digital means, the web and brief messaging.”

From a 2011 article on his concerns for Argentina:

Bergoglio raised his voice to accuse the Argentinean capital of becoming a “meat grinder,” presiding over a Mass for the victims of human trafficking, slavery-like working conditions, and the cartoneros, who live by digging through garbage. “For many, Buenos Aires is a meat grinder which destroys their lives, breaks their will, and deprives them of freedom,” he cried during the Eucharistic celebration held at the Constitución train station. Recalling the parable of the Good Samaritan, Bergoglio condemned the fact that “in our city there are people committing human sacrifice, killing the dignity of these men and these women, these girls and boys that are submitted to this treatment, to slavery. We cannot remain calm.” Buenos Aires is “a factory of slaves, a meat grinder,” where “mafia leaders” are defended, who “never show their faces and always save their own skin - perhaps for that recipe, so much our own, that we call bribes.” The cardinal urged his fellow citizens to report “breeding grounds for submission, for slavery,” “altars where human sacrifices are offered and which break the will of the people,” asking that “everyone do what they can, but without washing their hands of it, because otherwise we are complicit in this slavery.”…
The cardinal asked priests not to be “puritans” and to stop centering their homilies on moral aspects, but instead on the gospel of Jesus Christ. “We speak of morals because it is easier,” he emphasizes. “Furthermore - and this is bad taste - we deal with themes related to matrimonial morals and those tied to the sixth commandment because they seem more colorful. Thus we give a very sad image of the Church.”…

From a September 2012 article about one of his speeches: 

“I say this with sadness and if it sounds like a complaint or an offensive comment please forgive me: in our ecclesiastical region there are presbyteries that will not baptise children whose mothers are not married because they have been conceived outside holy wedlock.”

This unique call for an end to the use of sacramental blackmail to subdue the hopes of those who want their children to be baptised, was pronounced Sunday by Fr. Bergoglio in his homily, during the closing mass for the Convention of the ecclesiastical region of Buenos Aires. The convention examined the issue of urban pastoral care.

In this “hijacking” of the sacrament that marks the beginning of Christian life, the Jesuit cardinal sees the expression of a rigorous and hypocritical neo-clericalism which also uses the sacraments as tools to affirm its own supremacy. For example by rubbing the fragility and wounds of faithful in their faces or by dampening the hopes and expectations of those who supposedly do not fulfil the “requirements” in terms of doctrinal preparation or moral status. Not only are such pastoral models misleading, but according to Bergoglio, this modus operandi distorts and rejects the dynamics of Christ’s incarnation, which is reduced to a mere doctrinal slogan to serve the interests of religious power. “Jesus did not preach his own politics: he accompanied others. The conversions he inspired took place precisely because of his willingness to accompany, which makes us all brothers and children and not members of an NGO or proselytes of some multinational company.”…
But according to Bergoglio, by clericalising the Church, the hypocrites of today “drive God’s people away from salvation.” They are the followers of the “Pharisees’ hypocritical Gnostisism,” which Jesus always turned his back on, “appearing among the people, the publicans and the sinners.”

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