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Francis: Church elites must not ‘privatise’ faith

Pope Francis (CNS)

Pope Francis has warned the faithful that Church “elites” must be careful not to “privatise” faith by acting as if salvation is just for them and their associates.

The Pope made the comments in his homily at his early morning Mass on Thursday in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae where he lives.

“This is a very big mistake; it is what we call and see as ‘ecclesial elites.’ When these little groups are created among the people of God,” he said, “they think they are good Christians, and perhaps they have good intentions, but they are little groups that have privatised salvation.”

The Pope’s homily focused on a reading for the day’s Mass from Hebrews 10:19-25, talking about Christ’s one sacrifice for all and about persevering in faith. The reading explains how Jesus’ sacrifice opened “a new and living way” that allows Christians to enter God’s presence.

Each person’s personal encounter with Christ — the experience that “the Lord looked at me, gave his life for me, opened this door, this new way for me” — might lead some people to forget that Jesus also saved each person as “a people, as a Church,” the pope said.

“The Lord saves us as a people,” he said, which is what the reading underlines when it talks about the need “to rouse one another to love and good works” and not “stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but to encourage one another.”

Encouraging each other in holiness recognises that “salvation isn’t just for me. If I understand salvation in this way, I am wrong; I’m on the wrong path. The privatisation of salvation is the wrong way,” he added.

Sometimes “when we are in a meeting — at the parish, with a group — we judge others,” he said, and “there is a kind of contempt for the others. And this is not the door, the new and living way that the Lord opened.”

By “scorning others, deserting the whole community, deserting the people of God,” these Christians “have privatised salvation” thinking it is exclusive to their inner circle of “elites,” he said. But “God saves us as a people, not as elites that we, with our philosophies or our way of understanding the faith, have created.”

Instead, the three elements of Jesus’s “new and living” way are: having “faith in Jesus who purifies us,” having unwavering hope in his promise and looking outward to encourage one another to be loving and charitable, he said.

People should ask themselves, Francis continued, “If I speak, do I communicate the faith? I speak, do I communicate hope? I do something, do I communicate charity?”

He added: “If you don’t speak in a community, if you do not give encouragement to one another in these three virtues, the members of that community have privatised the faith” and are only looking out for themselves and “not the salvation of everyone, the salvation of the people.”