16Jun Pope to Latin American Religious: Flip the Tortilla!

On June 6, 2013, the Pope received the presiding board of the CLAR (the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious Men and Women). This unofficial summary is available on http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2013/06/pope-to-latin-american-religious-full.html.
The comments of Pope Francis are in response to questions put to him, which are not reported. A bit like reading letters of St Paul without knowing the questions to which they respond! He says: It is necessary to shake things up [flip things over, lit. dar vuelta (a) la tortilla]!


In an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis received and held a dialogue of one hour with the board of the Confederación Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Religiosas y Religiosos (CLAR). They spoke in a circle, among equals, as it happened in the first communities founded by Jesus…

In an environment of trust and simplicity, Francis prompted the leaders of the CLAR to not be afraid of continuing to carrying on their mission to the boundaries and to the borders…. “Courage! Advance towards new horizons! Do not be afraid to run risks going to the poor, and to new emerging subjects in the continent,” said Pope Bergoglio, who at the end of the meeting emphatically thanked religious life for being “sign and witness of the Gospel” in many places in Latin America and the Caribbean.

We offer our readers – exclusively – this short synthesis of this historical meeting held in the Holy See.

Audience with Pope Francis

CLAR, 06.06.13

“Open the doors… Open the doors!”

They will make mistakes, they will make a blunder [meter la pata], this will pass! Perhaps even a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine (of the Faith) will arrive for you, telling you that you said such or such thing… But do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward… Open the doors, do something there where life calls for it. I would rather have a Church that makes mistakes for doing something than one that gets sick for being closed up…

(on his election) I did not lose my peace [of mind – no perdí la paz] at any moment, you know? And this is not from myself, I am of the kind that gets worried, that gets upset… But I did not lose my peace at any moment. This confirms to me that this comes from God…

(upon mentioning to him the hope that his gestures at this time have brought us, he makes reference to having stayed at Santa Marta) ….these gestures… they have not come from me. They have not occurred to me. It is not as if I had brought a plan, nor that I have made one myself once elected. I do it because I felt this was what the Lord wanted. But these gestures are not mine, there is Someone else here… this gives me confidence.

I came [to Rome] only with the necessary clothes, I washed them at night, and suddenly this… And I did not have any chance! In the London betting houses I was in 44th place, look at that, the one who bet on me won a lot, of course…! This does not come from me…

It is necessary to shake things up [flip things over, lit. dar vuelta (a) la tortilla]. It is not news that an old man dies of cold in Ottaviano [Rorate note: referring to the surroundings of via Ottaviano and the Ottaviano Rome Metro station, near the Vatican], or that there be so many children with no education, or hungry, I think of Argentina…On the other hand, the main stock exchanges go up or down 3 points, and this is a world event. One must shake things up! This cannot be. Computers are not made in the image and likeness of God; they are an instrument, yes, but nothing more. Money is not image and likeness of God. Only the person is image and likeness of God. It is necessary to flip it over. This is the gospel.

It is necessary to go to the causes, to the roots. Abortion is bad, but that is clear. But behind the approval of this law, what interests are behind it… they are at times the conditions posed by the great organizations to support with money, you know that? It is necessary to go to the causes, we cannot remain only in the symptoms. Do not be afraid to denounce… you will suffer, you will have problems, but do not be afraid to denounce, that is the prophecy of religious life…

I share with you two concerns. One is the Pelagian current that there is in the Church at this moment. There are some restorationist groups. I know some, it fell upon me to receive them in Buenos Aires. And one feels as if one goes back 60 years! Before the Council… One feels in 1940… An anecdote, just to illustrate this, it is not to laugh at it, I took it with respect, but it concerns me; when I was elected, I received a letter from one of these groups, and they said: “Your Holiness, we offer you this spiritual treasure: 3,525 rosaries.” Why don’t they say, ‘we pray for you, we ask…’, but this thing of counting… And these groups return to practices and to disciplines that I lived through – not you, because you are not old – to disciplines, to things that in that moment took place, but not now, they do not exist today…

The second [concern] is for a Gnostic current. Those Pantheisms… Both are elite currents, but this one is of a more educated elite… I heard of a superior general that prompted the sisters of her congregation to not pray in the morning, but to spiritually bathe in the cosmos, things like that… They concern me because they ignore the incarnation! And the Son of God became our flesh, the Word was made flesh, and in Latin America we have flesh abundantly [de tirar al techo]! What happens to the poor, their pains, this is our flesh…

The gospel is not the old rule, nor this Pantheism. If you look at the periphery; the destitute… the drug addicts! The traffic of people… This is the gospel. The poor are the gospel…

(upon mentioning the hardship of being in charge of the Roman Curia, and the commission of cardinals who will support him, etc.) And, yes… it is difficult. In the Curia, there are also holy people, really, there are holy people. But there also is a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true… The “gay lobby” is mentioned, and it is true, it is there… We need to see what we can do…

The reform of the Roman Curia is something that almost all Cardinals asked for in the Congregations preceding the Conclave. I also asked for it. I cannot promote the reform myself, these matters of administration… I am very disorganized, I have never been good at this. But the cardinals of the Commission will move it forward. There is Rodríguez Maradiaga, who is Latin American, who is in front of it, there is Errázuriz, they are very organized. The one from Munich is also very organized. They will move it forward.

Pray for me… that I make mistakes the least possible…

Aparecida is not over. [Rorate note: the reference is to the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate, held in the Marian shrine of Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007. See our lengthy coverage of the meeting in our Aparecida Notes series.] Aparecida is not simply a document. It was an event. Aparecida was a different thing. First, because there was no working draft. There were suggesions, but not a draft. And in the end, there was no document either, but on the eve of the final day, we had 2,300 “notes”… Aparecida moved towards the continental mission. There ends Aparecida, in the push towards mission.

What Aparecida had that was special was that it was not celebrated in a hotel, nor in a retreat house… it was celebrated in a Marian shrine. During the week, we celebrated the eucharist and there were some 250 people, because it was a regular workday. But on the weekends, it was full….! The people of God joined the Bishops, asking for the Holy Spirit…

I saw – I name him because I see him more standoffish, more like this, he is good, but he is like that – I saw the Prefect, João [Rorate note: João Braz de Aviz, then-Archbishop of Brasilia, now Cardinal-Prefect of Religious], who went out with his miter, and people got close to him, and they brought the children near, and he greeted them, and hugged them like this… This same bishop then voted. He could not have voted the same way as if he had been in a hotel!

We had the meeting rooms under the Shrine. So the background music were the chants, the celebrations in the Shrine… This made it very special.

There is something that concerns me, even though I do not know now to understand it. There are religious congregations, very, very tiny groups, a few persons, very old people… They have no vocations, what do I know, the Holy Spirit do not want them to go on, perhaps they have already fulfilled their mission in the Church, I do not know… But there they are, clinging to their buildings, clinging to money… I do not know why this happens, I do not know how to understand it. But I ask you to be concerned with these groups… The management of money… is something that needs to be reflected upon.

Enjoy this moment that we live in the Congregation for Consecrated Life… It is a moment of sunshine… Enjoy. The Prefect [Cardinal Aviz] is good. And the Secretary [Abp. Rodríguez Carballo, OFM], that was “lobbied” by you! No, really, being the president of USG [Union of Superiors General], the logical thing was that it would be him! It’s better…

Place all your effort in the dialogue with the Bishops. With CELAM [Latin American Episcopal Conference], with the national conferences… I know there are some who have a different idea of communion, but… Talk, speak with them, tell them…


Update (1300 GMT): Il Sismografo, that frequently links to us, asked the Vatican spokesman directly today about the content of the report. Fr. Lombardi’s answer was the following: “The meeting of the Holy Father with the members of the Presidency of the CLAR was a meeting of a private nature. I do not have therefore any declarations to make on the contents of the conversation.” Grazie, Il Sismografo! / Following up on Lombardi’s refusal to comment, the large Spanish broadsheet El Mundo added this moments ago: “Despite this, several Vaticanists asked by elmundo.es consider that it is perfectly plausible the Francis has pronounced them [these words], considering that the Pontiff is capable of speaking without restraint on any matter, as delicate as it may be.”


2nd Update (2000 GMT): The Presidency of CLAR confirms the content of the report, even though they regret it was made public. They do not vouch for every detail, but they do not deny those, either:

“Bogota, Colombia, June 11, 2013

“The Presidency of CLAR deeply regrets the publication of a text referring to the conversation held with the Holy Father Francis in the course of a meeting on this past June 6. A conversation that took place prompted by questions made by those present to the Pope.

“In that occasion, no recording of the conversation was made, but soon afterwards a summary of the same was made based on the recollections of those present. [Rorate notes: at least one of those present had a visible writing pad in his hands; maybe another device was also used to capture the conversation.] This summary, that does not include the questions posed to the Holy Father, was destined to the personal memory of the participants, and not for any reason meant for publication, something for which, on the other hand, no authorization had been requested.

“It is clear that, on this basis, the singular expressions contained in the text cannot be attributed to the Holy Father with certainty, but only their general sense.

“The Presidency of CLAR deeply regrets what has happened and the confusion it may have caused.

“Sister Mercedes Leticia Casas Sánchez, FSpS – President
Fr. Gabriel Naranjo Salazar, CM, – General Secretary” (Source)

8 Responses

  1. Eddie Finnegan

    It is, I suppose, inevitable that a pope who borrows his name from the Man from Assisi will attract as many magpies and vultures as he will doves or eagles. Clearly at least one of the magpies of CLAR is somewhat hard of hearing. Of course the image of Francisco/Francesco flipping flippin pancakes fits in with the honeyed syrupy stereotype of the Pope in the Santa Marta kitchen knocking up a quick prima colazione for himself before catching the bus to the office.
    Except that he never said we must “dar vuelta (a) la tortilla” which is what his slightly ‘bothered’ furtive note-taker thought s/he’d heard.
    My Ecuadorean informant on the CLAR board (excuse the tautology) tells me that Francis really said they must “dar vuelta a la tortuga”. ‘Anyone who’s ever been to the Galapagos would have got his meaning straightway. We must help him make the giant lumbering Curia tortoise turn turtle. We know that would give Papa Francisco a laugh.’
    ACP’s Vatican secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, has more or less confirmed the Ecuadorean’s account. The agenda for next meeting of the Association of Catholic Popes has just two items: Tortillas and Tortugas. Both Papa Emeritus and Papa Substantivus are agreed that their meeting will not be properly quorate without some of the popes and popesses of Ireland’s ACP. Darlene, your limo awaits – unless you’d prefer the minibus.

  2. Darlene Starrs

    You are an amazing writer, Eddie Finnegan! If only, it was that easy, just finding the transportation to meet with Pope Francis!

  3. mjt

    Eddie, In discussion sometimes one has that mingled sensation of astonishment and amusement one feels as when for example an asteroid or comet misses the earth by, in cosmic terms, a short way, but in earthly human terms, a long long way indeed. The use of irony can produce such an effect. Patrick Kavanagh the poet defined intelligence as the ability to perceive it. He further defined a peasant as someone living below a certain degree of intelligence. So by that definition there`s more peasants here than live in mudwalled houses. But as another thread had it lately, all we have to go on in discussion is words, slippery and untrustworthy though they may be.

  4. Darlene Starrs

    The Catholic Herald has printed an article entitled: Pope Francis ‘appoints management consultant’ to advise on reform of Curia…The consultant is Dr. Von Mitschke Collande, who was the manager of the global management firm of McKinsey & Company….He has written a book in German about the Catholic Church…..The title of it can be translated two ways either, Does the Catholic Church want to destroy itself? or Is the Catholic Church going out of business?
    Apparently, he was recommended by a Cardinal of the 8 Cardinals selected for advisement to curial reform. Do you think the problem of disorganization with administrative matters has been averted?

  5. Darlene Starrs

    Perhaps, the Pope appointing an advisor for curial reform, might be just what the ‘Church Doctors’ ordered, however, I know nothing of this Dr. Von Mitschke Collande and I certainly wish I knew the contents of his book. Father Schuller of the Priests Initiative of Germany is in Ireland or will be in Ireland…I wonder what he would say about the appointment of this Dr. Von as a consultant. There seems to have been much discussion about the many words of Pope Francis at the CLAR meeting…..however, one of the most interesting of his words actually appeared in his homily of June Third. He referred to certain church groups “sliding down the road of corruption”….I think, we all ought to keep this question front and center. Depending on who attempts to answer that question, from the person in the pew, to priests, to bishops, to theologians, and so on, we would have many different answers. I think it is imperative that the Pope tells us who he’s thinking of, when he says that….then, we would certainly have a much clearer understanding of what he thinks needs fixing….we might not agree…but, we would know, who and what, to a greater extent, our Pope Francis is about…at least, in terms of reform. Oh yes, Eddie, after years and years of wanting to speak to someone at the top, I would love to spend time interviewing and discussing with the Pope…..I just have some questions and comments….and I would be very honest and diplomatic…after all, I like the man…but, alas, I’m Pope-es Excludivus!

  6. Eddie Finnegan

    mjt(3) – the English believe that all North Americans have their faculty for irony surgically excised at conception. Reluctantly, I now believe the English are right.

  7. mjt

    Eddie Finnegan @6)-Saul Bellow (the North-American novelist, though maybe his being Jewish makes all the difference in this case) referred to “high IQ morons” in a phrase of some interest here, about people blessed by high intelligence of the kind measured in the 11+ exam, but lacking in humanity or moral intelligence. Good-heartedness will take us a long way, but in the geo-political maelstroms the Vatican operates in, we need that old-fashioned kind of intelligence too in our church leaders. And at best, these faculties ought not be and need not be thought of as mutually exclusive.

  8. mjt

    By the way, Eddie, I loved that “Reluctantly”. There`s a world of history moving in that one word!

Scroll Up