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Sorry, I Have a New Commitment

Pope Francis sent his regrets to the plenary meeting of the Argentinian episcopate. He can't be present due to unforeseen events. But he shared some thoughts with them:

In a letter sent to the group, which will remain in closed session until April 20, the Pope begins by apologizing for his absence noting that recent commitments have impeded his attending. He then urges them to reflect on the theme Into the Deep in light of the great missionary document of Aparecida, launched following the V General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. A document the then Cardinal Bergoglio helped draft.Mission he notes, is key to ministry. A Church that does not go out of itself, sooner or later, sickens from the stale air of closed rooms. Pope Francis went on to concede that at times, like anyone else, in going out the Church risks running into accidents. But he added I prefer a thousand times over a Church of accidents than a sick Church.Pope Francis said that the Church typically suffers from being self-referential, of only looking to and relying on itself. He spoke of a narcissism that leads to a routine spirituality and convoluted clericalism and prevents people from experiencing the sweet and comforting joy of evangelization.

The full letter, in Spanish, is here.

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It's heartening that Pope Francis has chosen not to dress up in silks and satins or to live in a palatial prison in the papal apartments. And he's right about the narcissism and convoluted clericalism that lock the hierarchy and clergy away from a world to which they been sent in mission. It's hard not to like his style. But much will depend on his ability to keep on throwing windows open while dealing with the many episcopal appointees of his recent predecessors who appear to thrive best in stale air. Will he be intimidated by the old hands in the Curia? Will he think the Americans in the Congregation for Bishops have really been offering the best advice on the selection of new Bishops? Whose advice on such matters is he likely to hear and take? The Pope's swift reaffirmation of Archbishop Sartain's mandate to take charge of the LWCR for five years is not encouraging. Whose advice is he hearing? This man will need lots of help and many prayers. He is up against stiff odds.

Susan, thank you.

In Cardinal Dulles "Models of the Church", which was an undergraduate textbook for me, rather a long time ago now, Dulles spends some time near the beginning on the old paradigm of the Church as "Perfect Society", and its rather internally-focused implications. A number of the alternative models he presents, such as "the Church as Communion" and "the Church as Herald" have a more outward focus.

James,you probably know that the last book that Cardinal Dulles was able to assemble (from essays) before his death was "Evangelization for the Third Millennium." One of the things I find intriguing about Pope Francis is his constant call to evangelization, not only by bishops and priests, but by all the baptized.The "stale air of closed rooms" is not restricted to episcopal residences.

I hope that, in his newness to the job and most likely necessary reliance on the recommendations of the people already in place, his initial appointment of bishops will not be regrettable. Dubuque deserves a good replacement for Abp. Hanus and I'm not sure that a Bruskewitz protege can or will be that.

This probably won't come as a surprise, but one group of disaffected Catholics has begun to criticize Pope Francis publicly for his simple and humble style. :-(http://news.yahoo.com/catholic-rebel-group-begins-criticizing-pope-17363...

"recent commitments"! How good it is to have a pope with a sense of humor!

Fr. Imbelli - you and I don't converse too often on dotCom, but it seems that not infrequently when we do, I come away with a book recommendation :-). I haven't read it but will hop on the ereader later this evening and see if it's available electronically.Claire - "How good it is to have a pope with a sense of humor!" - I think this is actually pretty noteworthy. Not the sense of humor per se; but that he is expressing himself publicly in this sort of sly, understated way. It's very contemporary. It is not so long ago - perhaps as recently as John XXIIII - when pontiffs wrote in a very flowery, formal style, replete with first-person singular "we"'s and references to predecessors "of happy memory". If style is important, this signifies an important shift, istm.

Susan, all that is indeed heartening. What's disheartening is the report that he intends to keep up the witch hunt against American nuns.

@ Susan Gannon: I seem to recall the same public infatuation with the "style" of a new pope from Poland some years ago. How did that turn out?As my sainted sixth-grade teacher, Sister Mary Adelaide, would intone whenever "cheap talk" would surface:"Actions, not words!"