Pope Francis has emphasised the importance of a “confessional with the light on” in attracting people to the Church.
In a robust defence of the traditional parish model, the Pope maintained that the parish “remains valid”, before adding “The problem is how it is organised.
He asked: “How do we greet people? How attentive are we to them? Is someone always in the confessional? In parishes – not those in the country but in city parishes and those on the highways – if there is a confessional with the light on, people always come. Always! A welcoming parish.”
He later added: “The parish cannot be touched; it has to remain as a place of creativity, a reference point, a mother, all these things.”
The Pope’s comments were made at a 117-member bishops’ conference in Krakow on 27 July. Transcripts of a 90-minute question-and-answer session were made available this week.
Bishop Leszek Leszkiewicz, Auxiliary Bishop of Tarnów, had asked the Pope about how to build the Church community “fruitfully, and with a missionary spirit”.
Pope Francis highlighted the value of both a parish presence and outreach work, saying: “If you don’t go out to find them, if you don’t approach them, they do not come. This is what it means to be a missionary disciple, a parish that goes forth.”
The Pope was also critical of parish churches “who scare people off” and prioritise expensive ceremonies, referring to an example in Buenos Aires:
“Whenever an engaged couple arrived to get married, the secretary would immediately begin by saying: ‘Here are the prices’. This is wrong; parishes like this are wrong.”
Speaking to the press ahead of the event, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, asked that the meeting be closed so that participants could be “free of pressure and speak out without fear”.
Archbishop Wojciech Polak of Gniezno, also present, said the talks had been conducted in a “very warm atmosphere”.