Pope to bishops: Serve people, not Church organisation

Urging the hierarchy to be more pastoral than administrative, Pope Francis has said bishops should ask whether they and their priests are serving “the People of God as a whole” rather than “the Church as an organisation”.

The Pope was speaking in Rio de Janeiro to the co-ordinating committee of the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM), an umbrella organisation for the 22 bishops’ conferences of Latin American and the Caribbean.

In his down-to-earth address, he criticised pastoral plans that “clearly lack nearness, tenderness, a warm touch” and are incapable of sparking “an encounter with Jesus Christ” and with other people.

“Christ’s followers are not individuals caught up in a privatised spirituality, but persons in community, devoting themselves to others,” the Pope said.

“Responding to the existential issues of people today, especially the young, listening to the language they speak, can lead to a fruitful change, which must take place with the help of the Gospel, the magisterium, and the Church’s social doctrine,” the Pope said.

He asked the bishops to examine whether they “manipulate” or “infantilise” the laity.

“In practice, do we make the lay faithful sharers in the mission?” he asked.

Pope Francis called on bishops and pastors to encourage lay participation in “consultation, organisation, and pastoral planning”, especially through diocesan and parish-level pastoral and financial councils.

But he warned against reducing the Church to “the structure of an NGO” focused on quantifiable results, statistics, and a business-like organisation.

Seeing the Church in terms of institutions and business management, he said, can have a “paralysing” influence on Catholic life.

He described this mindset as: “More than being interested in the road itself, it is concerned with fixing holes in the road.”

The Pope also criticised the psychology-focused tendencies of some spirituality courses and spiritual retreats, saying they reduce the encounter with Jesus Christ to “self-awareness”, a “self-centred approach” that “has nothing to do with the missionary spirit”. He gave the Enneagram as one example.


Catholic News Agency

Vatican News

National Catholic Reporter

Image: Rome Reports (YouTube)

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