HAVANA—Pope Francis issued a strong critique of the Church before the College of Cardinals just hours before it selected him as the new Pontiff, according to comments published on Tuesday by a Roman Catholic magazine in Cuba.
According to Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega, 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 (ones): Those of sin, suffering, injustice, ignorance and religious abstention, thought and all misery,” Bergoglio said.
Ortega said Bergoglio’s comments were made to cardinals as they gathered to select Benedict XVI’s replacement, and reflect his vision of the contemporary Catholic Church. He 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.
Ortega added that the remarks offered insight about the direction in which the new Pope could take the Church following his March 13 election.
In his statements, the future Pontiff also warned of the dangers of stagnation.
“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 also criticized “a mundane Church that lives within itself, of itself and for itself.”
Finally Bergoglio said that whoever became the new Pope should be “a man who … helps the Church to emerge from itself toward the existential outskirts.”
Ortega first revealed Bergoglio’s comments in a weekend Mass, and they were published on Tuesday on the website of Palabra Nueva magazine, along with a photo of the two men embracing after Bergoglio had donned the papal white robes and rechristened himself Francis.