VATICAN CITY — While acknowledging that power struggles have existed in the Church since it began, Pope Francis said Jesus’ teaching on power leaves no room for them.
“In the Church, the greatest is the one who serves most, the one who is at the service of others,” said Pope Francis on May 21.
“This is the rule, yet, from the beginning until now, there have been power struggles in the Church, even in our manner of speech,” he said in his homily, which was based on the day’s Gospel reading from Mark 9.
In the reading, Jesus catches the disciples arguing about which of them is the greatest.
“In the Gospel of Jesus, the struggle for power in the Church must not exist, because true power, that which the Lord by his example has taught us, is the power of service,” said the Pope.
But the Pope believes the struggle for power in the Church is “nothing new” and that it first appeared when Jesus was forming his disciples.
Pope Francis noted, “When a person is given a job, one that in the eyes of the world is a superior role, they say, ‘Ah, this woman has been promoted to president of that association or this man was promoted.’”
“This verb, to promote, yes, it is a nice verb and one we must use in the Church,” he said, then applying it to Jesus.
“Yes, he was promoted to the cross; he was promoted to humiliation,” the Pope remarked.
“True promotion,” he underscored, “is that which makes us seem more like Jesus.”
“If we do not learn this Christian rule, we will never, ever be able to understand Jesus’ true message on power,” said Pope Francis.
“Real power is service as he did, he who came not to be served but to serve, and his service was the service of the cross,” he said.
The Holy Father explained that Jesus “humbled himself unto death, even death on a cross, for us, to serve us, to save us, and there is no other way in the Church to move forward.”
Pope Francis also drove home his point by recalling that St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of his religious order, the Jesuits, asked Jesus for the grace of humiliation.
“This is the true power of the service of the Church; this is the true path of Jesus, true and not worldly advancement,” said the Pope.
“The path of the Lord is being in his service, as he carried out his service; we must follow him on the path of service. That is the real power in the Church,” he stated.
The Mass congregation included the president and vice president of the Focolare movement, Maria Voce and Giancarlo Faletti, as well as the director of the magazine Civiltà Cattolica, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro. Staff from Vatican Radio and the office of the Vatican city state governatorate also attended.
During the Prayers of the Faithful, Pope Francis prayed for the victims of the tornado that hit the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore on the afternoon of May 20.