30Apr Pope Francis on priests and laity

The 19 March letter of Pope Francis to Cardinal Marc Ouellet of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America is now in English on the Vatican website:


Francis has strong comments on the importance of laity, and of the dangers of clericalism.


A few sentences from the letter:

“The Church is not an elite of priests, of consecrated men, of bishops, but that everyone forms the faithful Holy People of God … The faithful Holy People of God is anointed with the grace of the Holy Spirit, and … we must be very attentive to this anointing.”

“We cannot reflect on the theme of the laity while ignoring one of the greatest distortions that Latin America has to confront — and to which I ask you to devote special attention — clericalism … Clericalism … gradually extinguishes the prophetic flame to which the entire Church is called to bear witness in the heart of her peoples. Clericalism forgets that the visibility and sacramentality of the Church belong to all the People of God, not only to the few chosen and enlightened.”

Popular devotion “if it is well oriented, above all by a pedagogy of evangelization, it is rich in values. It manifests a thirst for God which only the simple and poor can know. It makes people capable of generosity and sacrifice even to the point of heroism, when it is a question of manifesting belief. It involves an acute awareness of profound attributes of God: fatherhood, providence, loving and constant presence. It engenders interior attitudes rarely observed to the same degree elsewhere: patience, the sense of the cross in daily life, detachment, openness to others, devotion.”

“Let us trust that the Holy Spirit acts in and with our People and that this Spirit is not merely the ‘property’ of the ecclesial hierarchy.”

“What does the fact that lay people are working in public life mean for us pastors? … It is not the pastor to tell lay people what they must do and say, they know this better than we do.”

“Without realizing it, we have generated a lay elite, believing that committed lay people are only those who work in the matters ‘of priests’, and we have forgotten, overlooked, the believers who very often burn out their hope in the daily struggle to live the faith. These are the situations that clericalism fails to notice, because it is more concerned with dominating spaces than with generating initiatives.”

“Not through our concession of good will, but by right and actual statute. Lay people are part of the faithful Holy People of God and thus are the protagonists of the Church and of the world; we are called to serve them, not to be served by them.”

3 Responses

  1. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    So inspirational to anyone who is looking for change, anywhere.

  2. Darlene Starrs

    It seems Pope Francis has provided a possible solution to the problem of a Church hierarchy that calls the shots from above and expects the rest of us, to pray, pay, and obey…How he has solved that problem…is by insisting that the entire people of God are anointed and in possession of the spirit of God. He also says the “clerics” are to serve the People as opposed to the People serving the “clerics”. Well said Pope Francis and fantastically true…but…What organizational mechanisms need to be in place, so that the entire People of God have a say in the day-to-day business of the Church?….Parish Councils… are generally not very effective….

  3. John Lowther

    I have just given up serving on my PPC. The lay members have little desire to form attitudes beyond what they learnt in catechism class before Vatican II. Consequently they have little desire to function as leaders in the council and support and inform and encourage the formal leaders (lay chairperson and the clerical President). Lay people and the two clerics have little interest(?), time(?) to learn together so that the Spirit can inspire them to love God by loving their neighbours and their enemies. Eucharistic ministers actually wash ‘particles’ of the host’s divine presence from their fingers after sharing communion as if they were contaminated. Every day and ‘twice on Sunday’ the presence of Jesus is celebrated in the bread and wine itself and, once a year only, a cleric is allowed to enact the greatest symbol of the Last Supper: the washing of the feet of lay people by Jesus (Son of the Father) as a household slave. What did Jesus want us to really do to remember him? At weekday mass, I have to walk four or five empty pews to shake hands with a fellow ‘Christian’: See how we love one another; no one sits together in any form of community while the buzz word is often repeated from the altar in sermons and the prayers of the faithful. I am close to not going to a eucharist any more. Did Jesus really ‘institute’ saying thank you? Yours, confused even though I tell people we are not helpless.

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