Pope Francis warned Wednesday against Christians who are overly attached to tradition, which he said was weakening the church. In his speech on the eve of the Jubilee celebrations, the Pope said that tradition should not be allowed to dominate the worship of God. He also spoke of the need for pastors and priests to have flexibility while working within a system that has evolved since the early days of Christianity. The Pope did not support Christians who cling to old forms of faith or those who live by a certain code of conduct. Rather, he hoped that people could have a sense of gratitude toward all those who have made the Catholic Church grows in a meaningful way over the past centuries.
“The Pope did not speak about the Christian world’s continuing crisis, but he offered his condolences to all those who suffer from it, particularly the small group who follow tradition, even if this sometimes means keeping their traditions hidden or simply waiting for the last rites to be done,” said Jack Whelan, editor in chief of Catholics in Focus magazine. Pope Francis did speak of growth and development in the church, but he did so gently, pointing out that some Christian traditions may not have been useful in the first place, but that some are essential for the survival of the church.
Whelan went on to say that Pope Francis was correct in his criticism of some priests and pastors who are too attached to traditionalist teachings, but he went further in saying that he hopes Pope Francis will continue to do this with more emphasis going forward.
Francis is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who spoke of a generation of “clericalism” that has been detrimental to the good of the church. Benedict XVI also cited the need for greater flexibility among priests and pastors in the tightening grip that the Catholic Church has over its followers. The Pope did not single out any specific group or tradition, but only mentioned a need for discernment in order to avoid reduction of the “holiness” that is a part of the Catholic faith. This kind of discernment is necessary as the Pope and his representatives are under increasing scrutiny by the media and the general public, and one way that the Pope is able to assure people of the authenticity and rectitude of the Catholic faith is to speak out against the abuses of the clergy and the culture they have helped to shape.
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