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Pope to CELAM: The Church cannot be led by a clerical caste

Pope Francis held a meeting with the Executive Committee of the Latin American Episcopal Council, CELAM. It's a body that unites bishops from 22 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and he himself has participated for many years.

The pope spoke from an encompassing speech, in which he reflected on the mission of the Church in Latin America. He explained to the bishops that all their efforts must focus on speaking to the people of God from a point of closeness and encounter.

“The Gospel, then, cannot be reduced to a program at the service of a trendy gnosticism, a project of social improvement or the Church, conceived as a comfortable bureaucracy, any more than she can be reduced to an organization run according to modern business models by a clerical caste.”

To avoid this risk, he proposed to imitate Christ and walk among the people, doing, in the end, work in the fields.

“We cannot let ourselves be paralyzed by our air-conditioned offices, our statistics and our strategies. We have to speak to men and women in their concrete situations; we cannot avert our gaze from them. The mission is carried out by one-to-one contact.”

The pope also spoke of the specificity of the Latin American continent, a region of different races, where the Church is there to stay.

“The Church is not present in Latin America with her suitcases in hand, ready, like so many others over time, to abandon it after having plundered it. Such people look with a sense of superiority and scorn on its mestizo face; they want to colonize its soul with the same failed and recycled visions of man and life; they repeat the same old recipes that kill the patient while lining the pockets of the doctors.”

Latin America is also a land of hope, the pope said, a people who have learned that no disappointment is enough to break them. Pope Francis explained that this hope is concrete in the young, the laity and especially in women.

“Please, do not let them be reduced to servants of our ingrained clericalism. For they are on the front lines of the Latin American Church.”

Finally, the pope gave the bishops of Latin America the keys to carrying out their mission on the continent.

“If we want to serve this Latin America of ours from CELAM, we have to do so with passion.”

Before concluding, Pope Francis asked the bishops not to lose touch with their people and with the popular religiosity on the continent.