The substance of the speech by Cardinal Bergoglio before the conclave, as revealed by Cardinal Ortega
Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana, revealed on March 23, 2013, during the Christm Mass that he was celebrating in his cathedral, the substance of the speech by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio during the General Congregations that preceded the conclave in which he was elected pope. The Cuban prelate declared to the faithful who were present that he wanted to confide to them “a bit of news that is almost absolutely exclusive: the thought of Pope Francis about the Church’s mission”. He added that, although it was normally placed under the seal of secrecy, he was making this speech public with the pope’s authorization.
And so Cardinal Ortega read the entire text that he had requested of Cardinal Bergoglio on the day following his impromptu intervention to the College of Cardinals, and that the future pope agreed to transcribe for the benefit of the Cuban Archbishop. “Cardinal Bergoglio made a speech that seemed to me magisterial, enlightening, engaging and true,” he said to his listeners.
This speech is divided into four points:
The first point pertains to evangelization. “The Church must emerge from herself and go “to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also the existential peripheries” that are manifested in “the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, and of all misery.”
The second point denounced a “self-referential Church” that looks at herself with a sort of “theological narcissism” that keeps her apart from the world and that “claims to have Jesus Christ within her and yet does not let him out.” The Cardinal said that he was thinking of the moment when Jesus said that he is knocking at the door, adding that he was thinking also of the times when “Jesus is knocking on the door from inside so that we might let him go out.”
The third point expresses the two preceding points in two images: one is “the evangelizing Church that goes out of herself”; the other is “the worldly Church that lives in herself, of herself and for herself”. This twofold consideration, according to Cardinal Bergoglio, “should shed light on the possible changes and reforms which must be done for the salvation of souls”.
“When the Church is self-referential, without realizing it, she thinks that she is her own light; she ceases to be the ‘mysterium lunae’ [the moon that reflects the light of the sun], which gives rise to such a serious evil as ‘spiritual worldliness’.” Cardinal Bergoglio noted that, according to de Lubac, this is the worst evil that can befall the Church. “It is living so as to give glory to one another. To simplify: there are two images of the Church: the evangelizing Church that goes out from herself, the Dei Verbum religiose audiens et fidente proclamans [Church that listens devoutly to the Word of God and by believing proclaims it], or the worldly Church that lives in herself, of herself, and for herself.”
In the final point, the prelate who was still Archbishop of Buenos Aires declared to the cardinals that the one he hoped to see elected would be “a man who, based on his contemplation of Jesus Christ and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the Church to go out from herself toward the peripheries of life”.
There is no doubt whatsoever that this speech by Cardinal Bergoglio before the conclave inspires Pope Francis, who in his first homily to the College of Cardinals on Thursday, March 14, in the Sistine Chapel, declared: “When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess a Christ without the Cross … we aren’t disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord. And I wish that all of us, after these grace-filled days, might have the courage, yes, the courage to walk in the Lord’s presence with the Cross of the Lord, to build the Church on the blood of the Lord that is poured out on the Cross and to witness to the sole glory: to the crucified Christ. And thus the Church will move forward.”
“We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not witness to Jesus Christ then it doesn’t matter. We might become a philanthropic NGO [non-governmental organization] but we wouldn’t be the Church, the Bride of the Lord. When we don’t go forward we stop...we go backwards. When we don’t build on rock, what happens? The same thing that happens to children when they build sandcastles at the beach. They wind up falling down because they have no solidity. When we do not profess Jesus Christ, it reminds me of the remark by Léon Bloy: ‘Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.’ When we don’t witness to Jesus Christ, we witness to the worldliness of the devil, the worldliness of the devil.”
This idea of “worldliness” that the pope repeats here, after describing it as “spiritual worldliness” and stating that the (progressive) theologian Henri de Lubac, S.J. (1896-1991) thought that it was the worst evil that could befall the Church—this idea of spiritual worldliness is actually taken from a spiritual author who is doctrinally sound: Dom Anscar Vonier, O.S.B. (1875-1938), whom Fr. De Lubac cites in his Meditations on the Church: “The greatest danger for the Church, the most treacherous temptation, is what Dom Vonier called ‘spiritual worldliness’. He said that by that we mean ‘the practical relinquishing of other-worldliness, so that moral and even spiritual standards should be based, not on the glory of the Lord, but on man and his fulfillment; an entirely anthropocentric outlook would be exactly what we mean by spiritual worldliness. Even if men were filled with every spiritual perfection (supposing that were possible), yet if such perfections were not referred to God it would be unredeemed worldliness.” (Sources : AICA/Apic/Imedia/Figaro – DICI no. 273 dated April 12, 2013)