HAVANA, Cuba — Shortly before he was elected as the new Holy Father, Pope Francis told his brother cardinals that the successor of Peter must lead the Church to move outward in evangelizing in Christ’s name.
The next pope, said then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, “must be a man who, from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the Church to go out to the existential peripheries, that helps her to be the fruitful mother.”
Cardinal Bergoglio was one of numerous cardinals who offered an address during the general congregation meetings that preceded the conclave last month.
Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana, Cuba, sought permission to make public a handwritten copy of the address, and Pope Francis granted his approval to the request.
The text was read by the Cuban cardinal during a Mass at the Havana cathedral and published by the archdiocesan magazine, Palabra Nueva.
Vatican Radio has provided an unofficial translation of the text, which is entitled, “Evangelizing Implies Apostolic Zeal.”
“Evangelizing presupposes a desire in the Church to come out of herself,” Cardinal Bergoglio said in his address.
“The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also the existential peripheries: the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of intellectual currents and of all misery.”
When the Church fails to do this, he warned, “she becomes self-referential and then gets sick.”
“The evils that, over time, happen in ecclesial institutions,” the future Pope observed, “have their root in self-referentiality,” viewing oneself rather than Christ at the center and falling into “a kind of theological narcissism.”
When this happens, he continued, the Church “believes she has her own light” and fails to reflect the light of Christ, giving way to a “very serious evil, spiritual worldliness.”
The result, the cardinal cautioned, is a “worldly Church, living within herself, of herself, for herself.”
He explained, “Jesus knocks from within so that we will let him come out."