Pope Denounces Abuse of Authority, Even in Church


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(26 May 10 - RV) "Not even the Pope can do what he wants, on the contrary the Pope is the guardian of obedience to Christ, to his Word" who " must precede in obedience to Christ and his Church. " "Outside of a clearly and explicitly supernatural vision the priests own duty to govern is incomprehensible. Instead it is supported by true love for the salvation of every believer, it is particularly precious and necessary in our time".

This was Pope Benedict XVI's message at the heart of his Wednesday audience delivered to thousands in St Peter's Square. With little over two week to the conclusion of the Year for Priests (June 11th) the Holy Father delivered the third in a series of lessons on the duties of the priestly ministry. The first two were dedicated to the priests duty to educate and sanctify the People of God, the third task, as outlined by the Pope, is to exercise authority in the Lord's name:

"Authority, in the Christian understanding, is a service to the true, ultimate good of the person, which is our salvation in Christ; exercised in the Lord's name, it is an expression of the constant presence and care of the Good Shepherd. The spiritual authority conferred in Holy Orders should be matched by the priest's interior fidelity to his pastoral mission and his personal readiness to follow obediently the lead of Christ. Understood in the light of faith, this authority, while involving the exercise of power, remains a service to the building up of the Church in holiness, unity and truth. Christ's power was expressed in the washing of feet, and his kingship by the wood of the Cross; so too, the priestly ministry of governance must be expressed in pastoral charity."

In comments in Italian Pope Benedict said that in today's culture, the concept of authority is often associated with that of domination. This is partly due to the "abuse of authority and careerism" which exists even in the Church and particularly the "cultural experiences of the recent political and historical past." "Above all the dictatorships in Eastern and Western Europe in the twentieth century, which have made modern man suspicious of the concept of authority. Suspicions which often translate into support for the need to abandon all forms of authority, which are not exclusively by men or subordinate to them". But "the gaze on the regimes which in the last century, sowed terror and death, are a powerful reminder that, authority any field, when it is exercised without reference to the transcendent, if it ignores the supreme authority, which is God, then it inevitably turns against man. Therefore it is important to recognise that human authority is never an end, but always and only a means, and that, necessarily and in every age, the end is always the human person, created by God with his own inviolable dignity and called to relate himself to his Creator, in the journey of earthly existence and in the eternal life ".

Pope Benedict XVI said that an authority which "has as its sole purpose to serve the true good of the people" is "of precious help in the journey towards full realization in Christ, towards salvation." This is the authority that the Church is obliged to exercise, it "is service "and is exercised "not in its own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ, on whom the Father bestowed all authority in heaven and on earth. " "Through the Church's pastors, in fact, Christ feeds, guides, protects, corrects his flock because He deeply loves it." It was he who wanted the apostles and their successors to "participate in this mission to take care of God's people, to be educators in the faith, directing, animating and sustaining the Christian community".

"Even if this pastoral task is founded on the sacrament, its effectiveness is not independent of the priest's personal existence. In order to be a pastor according to God's heart, priests must be deeply rooted in a living friendship with Christ, not only intellectually but also freely and willingly, with a clear awareness of the identity received in priestly ordination and an unconditional willingness to guide the flock entrusted to where the Lord wants and not in the direction that, apparently, seems more convenient or easier. This requires, first, the continuous and progressive willingness to allow that it is Christ Himself who governs priestly life".

Referring then to the concept of "hierarchy" in the Church, the Pope noted how a prevalent idea among the public is of "an element of subordination, ... and for many people this contrasts with the flexibility and vitality of pastoral service. ... This is an erroneous interpretation which has its origins in the abuses of history", he explained. "The true meaning is of a sacred origin, it is an authority that comes from another, and subjects the person to the mystery of Christ, making him His servant. Only as His servant can he govern and guide, for Christ and with Christ".

Thus "the Pope, who is a point of reference for the communion of all the pastors of the Church, cannot do as he pleases; quite the contrary, he is the custodian of obedience to Christ and His word".

"Without this clear and explicit supernatural vision, priests' duty to govern cannot be understood. It is however, when supported by true concern for the salvation of each member of the faithful, a particularly important and necessary duty, also in our own time".

Pope Benedict concluded by urging priests: "do not be afraid to guide each of the brothers that He has entrusted to you, to Christ, rest assured that every word and all behaviour, if arising from obedience to the will of God, will bear fruit; know how to live appreciating the merits and recognizing the limits of the culture in which we are engaged with the firm assurance that the Gospel is the greatest service that we can give to man".