April 22, 2013

VATICAN CITY - Each member of the Church has a role in the community and society, and responsibilities that require specific preparation and particular characteristics, according to Pope Francis.

He explained his vision of the Church community in the book, On Heaven and Earth, which is a 2010 compilation of conversations with Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Image Books, a division of Random House, will publish the book in English May 7.

  • Religious leaders. The future pope said humility is the true sign of being a religious leader inspired by God. When someone is "self-sufficient, has all the answers to every question, it is proof that God is not with him." An attitude of superiority and pride are found in "false prophets and misguided religious leaders" who are using their position "for their own ego."
  • "The true power of religious leadership is conferred by service," said the then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. "As soon as he stops serving others, the religious leader turns into a mere manager, a worker at an NGO."
  • Seminarians. Formation is built on four pillars, he said: a spiritual life in dialogue with God; a communal life where one is "shaped" and learns how to be responsible for and lead a community; intellectual life with sound knowledge of theology and the Bible; and an apostolic life living and working in a parish where one's virtues, defects, personality and charisma become clear.
  • "We are so weak that there is always this temptation of inconsistency," he said, in wanting both the beauty of consecrated life and the beautiful things about life as a layperson.
  • It's normal to fall in love or become infatuated with a woman, he said. But one must discern one's true vocation wisely, and find peace and strength in that decision even if it means leaving the seminary to be "a good Christian and not a bad priest."
  • Priests. They have a three-fold role – to be a teacher, leader of the people of God and head of a liturgical assembly for prayer and adoration, he said.
  • As a teacher, a priest offers the revealed truth of God, points out the right path, allows the faithful to go their way and he accompanies them on their spiritual journey. "Even if he has to witness failures, he accompanies," he said.
  • A priest must not be authoritarian or try to make decisions for his people, because then he "would not be a good priest, he is a good dictator," who stunts or destroys a person's religious growth and strength.
  • A fundamentalist or authoritarian approach doesn't prepare people for the many problems and pitfalls in life and prevents people from understanding or experiencing God's mercy, he said.
  • This rigid approach "disguises itself with doctrines that pretend to give reasons, but in reality they deprive people of freedom and don't let them grow. To a great extent, they end up living a double life."
  • A priest's life isn't only inside the Church; he also has to get his hands dirty, he said. The future pope tells the story of a priest who faced criticism for wanting to wear a cassock. He said an older priest resolved the issue when he said the problem wasn't wearing a cassock or not, it was not knowing when to roll it up in order to help others.
  • "The worst thing that can happen in our priestly life is to be worldly, 'a watered down' bishop or priest," living according to the ways of the world rather than by God's criteria, he said. In God's laws and the Gospel, he calls on his disciples to serve others.
  • Women. The fact that women cannot exercise the priestly ministry doesn't mean they are inferior to men. "The supreme priest is Jesus, a man," and that ministry is handed down to other men, he said.
  • The gifts of men and women need to be integrated, otherwise the religious community not only "turns into a chauvinist society," but also one that is austere, strict and not rendered very holy.
  • The feminine presence in the Church hasn't stood out very much, he said, "because the temptation of chauvinism" doesn't leave room for showcasing the place of women in the community. Feminism, as a philosophy, runs the risk of being "chauvinism in skirts." It does nothing to help and uphold the dignity of women because it throws them into a "vindictive battle, and women are much more than this."
  • Laypeople. God gave humanity the gift of power, of being free to participate in his creation, to be fruitful and multiply, and fill and subdue the earth, he said. But a poor use of power is imposing one's way on others, and "religion mustn't be like this."
  • A healthy use of power is "service to the community" and promoting the human person so they can encounter God and find fulfillment. It's a creative, "proactive power: I help."
  • The experience of adoring God brings with it the mandate to help those in need, he said. Bringing this kind of justice to the world is "extremely creative" in that it gives birth to education, direct aid, social development and creates culture, he said.