Pope Francis issued strong words to the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, calling clericalism “one of the greatest distortions” facing the local Church.

“(W)e’d do well to recall that the Church is not an elite priests, of consecrated people, of bishops but all of us make up the faithful and Holy People of God,” he said in an April 26 letter, recalling that everyone starts out their life as laity, Vatican Radio reported.

His letter was addressed to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America as a follow-up to commission’s recent Plenary Assembly focused on the role of the laity.

The Holy Father said that clericalism seems to be the result of “a mistaken way of living out the ecclesiology proposed by the Second Vatican Council,” calling it, “one of the greatest distortions of the Church in Latin America.”

Clericalism, he said has proved to have a wide-ranging impact on the Church and seems to disregard the grace of the Holy Spirit bestowed on each Christian at baptism. It “forgets that the visibility and the sacramentality of the Church belong to all the people of God and not just to an illuminated and elected few.”

He discouraged clergy from relying on trite phrases concerning their people such as “it’s time for the laity.” While well-intentioned, the phrase has little meaning when stacked against actions.

The clergy should focus on encouraging the laity, especially those who work in public square, but emphasized that, “it is not the job of the pastor to tell the lay people what they must do and say.”

“It is illogical and even impossible for us as pastors to believe that we have the monopoly on solutions for the numerous challenges thrown up by contemporary life.”

However, he praised the Church in Latin America for its openness to ministry and public devotions driven mainly by the laity. However, he said that even this “has it’s limits” and should be “steered properly” to cultivate values such as sacrifice and openness to others.

He closed by saying that the role of the clergy is in service to the laity, not the other way around.

“(W)e are called to serve them, not to make use of them,” Pope Francis said.

Clericalism and "careerism" among clergy are themes that the Pope has consistently spoken out against during his three year pontificate.