That’s just one part of a two-hour discussion he had with the priests of Rome Monday.
“Sanctity is greater than scandal”. This was the message Pope Francis extended to Rome’s parish priests at a meeting in St. John the Lateran this morning, the Diocese of Rome’s weekly newspaper RomaSette reports. The Pope asked for this meeting straight after his election. The meeting took place between 10 and 12.30 and was introduced by Vicar Agostino Vallini, followed by a question and answer session between the Pope and the priests.
RomaSette said Pope Francis spoke with the parish priests and answered a wide range of questions, addressing the serious problems affecting the Church clearly but without pessimism. “The Church is not falling to pieces. It has never been better. This is a wonderful moment for the Church, you just need to look at its history. There are saints that are recognised by non-Catholics as well as Catholics – I’m thinking of Mother Theresa – but many men and women perform acts of holiness every day and this gives us hope. Sanctity is greater than scandal,” the newspaper writes.
During the meeting, Francis talked about his experiences in Buenos Aires and asked the priests to pray for him as the 60thanniversary of his ordination approaches (on 21 September). Introducing the meeting, the Pope invited the sea of priests gathered in the basilica to cast their minds back to this “first love”, the first time they felt Jesus’ eyes upon them.
The priestly mission is hard work . “Being in contact with his flock is hard work for a priest.” Jesus inspires this hard work, calling priests to go out to the poor, proclaim the Gospel and go on. Of course “praying before the tabernacle and being close to other priests and the bishop” helps. Francis stressed the importance of remembering moments such as the start of one’s vocation, the entry to the seminary and priestly ordination: “Memory is the lifeblood of the Church.”
When asked how he would define himself now given that back in his days in Buenos Sires he simply referred to himself as “priest”, Bergoglio relied:”I really do feel like a priest. I feel like a priest, really, a bishop….That’s what I feel like. And I hank the Lord for this.” “I would be scared to feel more important, you know? That I am scared of, because the devil’s cunning eh? He’s cunning and he makes you feel like you are in power, that you can do this and that …but like St. Peter says, the devilprowls around like a roaring lion. Thank God I haven’t lost that yet have I? And if you ever see that I have, please tell me; tell me; and if you can’t tell me in private, tell me in public, but tell me: “Look, you should change! Because it’s obvious isn’t it?”
The Pope told priests they should welcome couples that live together and championed the courageous and creative choices involved in going out to the “existential peripheries”, RomaSette says in its article. But the truth factor is crucial here. “The truth must always be told,” not just in the dogmatic sense of the world but in the sense of “love and God’s fullness”. The priest must “accompany” people.
UPDATE: There’s more on the pope’s remarks here.
And Terry Nelson has this analysis:
It seems to me what the Pope means when he says priests “should welcome couples that live together” may also be better understood in light of today’s Gospel, when Christ raised the son of the widow of Nain: the Lord was moved with pity for her, he had compassionfor her. With that attitude in mind, I thought of the Gospel of the Woman at the Well and her ‘unexpected’ encounter with Christ.
Christ asked a Samaritan woman to have compassion on him - he revealed his thirst to her, knowing full well she herself thirsted for love and acceptance. Christ visited her, in her own neighborhood. A Jew, who shouldn’t have anything to do with a Samaritan ‘dog’, Christ visits and drinks with her. Christ was moved with pity for her, he hadcompassion for her. He also tells her truths about herself no one else could know, yet he wasn’t repulsed, nor was she offended by his simplicity and straightforwardness. She welcomed him who welcomed her. God assuaged her thirst as she assuaged his, in the ‘existential peripheries’ of the era, if you will.
The disciples returned, confused and somewhat scandalized that Christ was speaking with a Samaritan - and a woman. Christ had not compromised teaching, the woman herself boasted of that, “He told me everything I ever did!” God met her where she was.