Lecturing the Elite

Pope Francis sought to shake up Mexico’s bishops on his first morning here on Feb. 13 with a powerful, challenging speech, in which he called on them to live as humble pastors, “not princes,” to be close to the poor and oppressed, and to prophetically denounce the drug trade and other evils of society.

Francis is aware that not a few Mexican bishops are closer to the rich, powerful and influential sectors of society in this country where the economic and social inequalities are striking, than they are to the some 50 million people (among the many indigenous peoples) who are living in poverty or misery and to a large extent discarded by that other society.   

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He had just moments earlier issued a similar call to conversion to Mexico’s civic and political leaders at the Palacio Nacional. He told these elite, “A hope-filled future is forged in a present made up of men and women who are upright, honest, and capable of working for the common good.

“Experience teaches us that each time we seek the path of privileges or benefits for a few to the detriment of the good of all, sooner or later the life of society becomes a fertile soil for corruption, drug trade, exclusion of different cultures, violence...bringing suffering and slowing down development.”

Before his arrival here, he revealed that his main reason for coming to Mexico City was to pray before the revered image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and he focused his talk to the bishops around the message of Guadalupe, which is at the heart of the spirituality of the people of this land. He reminded them that La Virgen Morenita “teaches us that the only power capable of conquering the hearts of men and women is the tenderness of God” and urged them to live as pastors who incarnate that tenderness.

“It is necessary to have an outlook capable of reflecting the tenderness of God,” he told them. In this context, he asked them “to be bishops who have a pure vision, a transparent soul and a joyful face.” He urged them, “Do not fear transparency. The church does not need darkness to carry out her work.”

The bishops applauded at the end, but in a rather muted way. It now remains to see what effect the visit of Pope Francis will have on how they conduct their ministry as pastors after he has left this land. 

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