Pope Francis reminded the Chilean bishops of the importance of living out their priestly fatherhood united in mission with their people in his final address on Tuesday, the first full day of his apostolic trip to Chile and Peru.
“Stay close to your priests, like Saint Joseph, with a fatherhood that helps them to grow and to develop the charisms that the Holy Spirit has wished to pour out,” the Pope said Jan. 16 in the sacristy of the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral.
He began his address by greeting Archbishop Bernardino Pi√±era Carvallo, who at 102 is the oldest bishop in the world. He is Archbishop Emeritus of La Serena and has been retired since 1990. Pi√±era was ordained a priest in 1947. He was consecrated a bishop in 1958, and attended the Second Vatican Council. The Pope called him a “marvellous living memory.”
In his address, Pope Francis stressed the importance of unity, especially at a time when secular individualism leaves many feeling isolated and alone: “One of the problems facing our societies today is the sense of being orphaned, the feeling of not belonging to anyone. This ‘post-modern’ feeling can seep into us and into our clergy. We begin to think that we belong to no one; we forget that we are part of God’s holy and faithful people.”
Pope Francis warned the bishops that they are not immune to this individualistic postmodern temptation, particularly in the form of clericalism, the narrow view of the Church as only “an elite of consecrated men and women, priests and bishops.”
“The mission belongs to the entire Church, and not to the individual priest or bishop,” said Pope Francis, stressing that clericalism poses the risk of stifling “the initiatives that the Spirit may be awakening in our midst.”
The Pope emphasized that seminaries must prepare future priests to avoid clericalism and for the challenges of postmodern secularism, saying, “Tomorrow’s priests must be trained with a view to the future, since their ministry will be carried out in a secularized world. This in turn demands that we pastors discern how best to prepare them for carrying out their mission in these concrete circumstances and not in our 'ideal worlds or situations'.”
The mission of today's seminarians is to be “carried out in fraternal unity with the whole People of God,” he said. “Side by side, supporting and encouraging the laity in a climate of discernment and synodality, two of the essential features of the priest of tomorrow. Let us say no to clericalism and to ideal worlds that are only part of our thinking, but touch the life of no one.”
He added that the bishops must “beg and implore” from the Holy Spirit “the gift of dreaming and working for a missionary and prophetic option capable of transforming everything, so that our customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and ecclesial structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelization of Chile rather than for ecclesiastical self-preservation. Let us not be afraid to strip ourselves of everything that separates us from the missionary mandate.”
With this address to bishops, Pope Francis ended the public portion of the first full day of his Jan. 15-22 apostolic trip to Chile and Peru.
He had earlier met also with Chile’s civil leaders, whom he asked forgiveness on behalf of the Church for the sexual abuse scandals among the country's clerics; female prisoners; priests and religious; and the country's bishops.
The Pope will spend two more days in Chile visiting Santiago, Temuco, and Iquique before he heads off to Peru.