Cuban cleric says Francis strongly criticized church just before becoming pope

HAVANA, Cuba, Thursday March 28, 2013 – Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio pulled no punches in a stinging indictment of the church before the College of Cardinals just hours before he was selected as the new pontiff, according to comments published by a Roman Catholic magazine in Cuba.

Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega first revealed Bergoglio’s comments in a weekend Mass, and they were subsequently published on Tuesday on the website of Palabra Nueva magazine, together with a photograph of the Cuban and the Argentinean embracing after Bergoglio had rechristened himself Francis and donned the papal white robes.

According to Ortega, Bergoglio’s comments were made to cardinals as they convened to select a replacement for retired Benedict XVI, and reflect his vision of the contemporary Catholic Church.

The Cuban cardinal said Bergoglio later gave him a handwritten version and permission to divulge its contents.

“Cardinal Bergoglio made a speech that I thought was masterful, insightful, engaging and true,” Ortega said.

He added that the remarks offer insight into the direction in which the new pope could take the church following his March 13 election.

The Havana Cardinal said that then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio urged the Vatican to eschew self-absorption and refocus its energies outward.

“The church is called on to emerge from itself and move toward the peripheries, not only geographic but also existential: those of sin, suffering, injustice, ignorance and religious abstention, thought and all misery,” Bergoglio was quoted as saying.

In his statements, the future pontiff also warned of the dangers of stagnation in the church.

“When the church does not emerge from itself to evangelize, it becomes self-referential and therefore becomes sick. … The evils that, over time, occur in ecclesiastical institutions have their root in self-referentiality, a kind of theological narcissism.” Bergoglio said.

He was also critical of “a mundane church that lives within itself, of itself and for itself.”

Bergoglio went on to state that whoever became the new pope should be “a man who … helps the church to emerge from itself toward the existential outskirts.” Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)