Responding to battles over doctrine and liturgy, Pope Francis praises unity in the Church


VATICAN CITY (RNS) — On the final day of his apostolic visit to Canada, Pope Francis addressed a group of Jesuit priests and stressed the importance of unity among bishops and throughout the Church, even as divisions over liturgy and doctrine continued to plague his papacy.

A transcript of the Pope’s meeting on Friday (July 29) with 15 Jesuits in Quebec has been published Thursday by La Civiltà Cattolica, a Jesuit magazine. During a lengthy conversation, the pope answered questions about his vision for a synodal church, the development of church doctrine, and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada.

The Pope, who visited Canada at the request of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canadian Catholic Bishops to address the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples in Catholic residential schools, apologized on behalf of the Church for the wrongs of the past. In his discussion with Jesuit priests, he praised the role Canadian bishops have played in paving the way for reconciliation.

Francis said his visit was “just the icing on the cake” and that it was “the bishops who did everything with their unity.”

“When a bishopric is united,” he said, “it can face the challenges that come its way.” By contrast, the pope said, ideology is “the worst enemy against the unity of the Church and of the episcopates.”

Francis also addressed lingering questions from the trip to Canada, including whether his apology came on behalf of the whole church.

“I am not speaking for myself or for an ideology or a party. I am a bishop and I speak on behalf of the church, not my own,” he said, emphasizing that his apology was for the church as an institution.

When asked why he hadn’t met survivors of sexual abuse while in the country, Francis said he didn’t want to hurt the message of reconciliation with indigenous peoples and that anyway , the busy schedule of the trip made personal meetings impossible. But he said he had responded to letters from survivors.

“A lot of people have come back to me saying they understand it wasn’t an exclusion at all,” he said.

But the clashes over church doctrine that arose with increasing frequency under the pope’s tenure were inevitable. “Changes had to be made, and they were made,” he told the Jesuit priests. “The law cannot be kept in a refrigerator. Law accompanies life and life goes on. Like morality, it is perfected.

Francis pointed out how morality and doctrine have developed over time regarding slavery and the possession of nuclear weapons. He argued against the idea that “Church doctrine is monolithic” while praising the importance of upholding “authentic” tradition.

Pope Francis speaks to reporters aboard the papal flight returning from Canada, July 30, 2022, where he made a six-day pastoral visit. Francis concluded his Canadian pilgrimage by meeting with Indigenous delegations and visiting Inuit territory in northern Nunavut. (Guglielmo Mangiapane/ Pool via AP)

“You have to take the origin as a reference, not a particular historical experience taken as a perpetual model, as if you had to stop there,” he said, comparing the attitude of “it’s always been like that to “thought paganism”. .”

His comments were similar to those aboard the papal plane returning from Canada, when the pope answered a question about birth control, which Catholic doctrine considers “intrinsically wrong.” The pope said that if doctrinal evolution “is a good thing,” it must happen within the Church and in accordance with tradition.

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Among the many changes Francis made to the church was the near-total ban on saying the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass, which had been liberalized by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. “The most recent audit has made it clear that there is a need to regulate the practice, and above all to prevent it becoming a matter of, say, ‘fashion’, and remaining more of a pastoral matter,” the official said. Pope to the Jesuits. .

Francis recalled the “monstrous liturgical distortions” adopted by the left in the 1960s and 1980s in his native Latin America, and the “retrograde intoxication” of conservative Catholics.

“When there is conflict, the liturgy is always abused,” he said.

The pope spoke about his upcoming summit of bishops in the Vatican on synodality – Francis’ vision of a more horizontal and inclusive church that encourages lay participation.

“It bothers me that the adjective ‘synodal’ is used as if it were the latest silver bullet for the church,” he said.

Francis clarified that synodality “is not centered on a vote, nor on a dialectical confrontation between a majority and a minority.” Unlike a democracy or a parliament, the protagonist of a synod is the Holy Spirit, he added, while rejecting efforts to “squeeze everything down the funnel of one issue.”

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