REFLECTION: Francis’s challenge to bishops

reeseHeadshotWebby Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR

Pope Francis is known for preaching the compassion and mercy of God, but he can be pretty tough on priests and bishops. Like Jesus with the religious leaders of his time (scribes and Pharisees), Pope Francis does not pull his punches.

popefrancisFrancis has now given major speeches to bishops in Brazil, Korea, Mexico, Italy, and the United States. Comparing and contrasting what the pope said to the U.S. bishops with what he said to other bishops gives us a better understanding of his pastoral vision.

Pope Francis began his 3,600-word talk to the U.S. bishops with words of affection to the bishops, Catholics, and all the American people. He specifically identified himself with those who reach out to the marginalized:

Whenever a hand reaches out to do good or to show the love of Christ, to dry a tear or bring comfort to the lonely, to show the way to one who is lost or to console a broken heart, to help the fallen or to teach those thirsting for truth, to forgive or to offer a new start in God … know that the Pope is at your side, the Pope supports you.

He showed appreciation for “the unfailing commitment of the Church in America to the cause of life and that of the family,” and or “the immense efforts you have made to welcome and integrate those immigrants who continue to look to America, like so many others before them, in the hope of enjoying its blessings of freedom and prosperity.”

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