Pope Francis to Canada’s Jesuits: ‘When There is Conflict the Liturgy is Always Mistreated’

In the hour-long conversation with the local Jesuits, the Pope also spoke about tradition and doctrine.

Pope Francis attends a closed-door meeting with Jesuits in Québec, Canada, July 29, 2022.
Pope Francis attends a closed-door meeting with Jesuits in Québec, Canada, July 29, 2022. (photo: Vatican Media / VM)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis told Jesuits in Canada about how his experience in Latin America formed his beliefs about synodality, liturgy, and divisions in the Church, in a private meeting in Québec last week.

“When there is conflict the liturgy is always mistreated,” Pope Francis said, according to a transcript published by the Jesuit periodical La Civiltà Cattolica on Aug. 4.

He explained: “In Latin America thirty years ago there were monstrous liturgical deformations. Then they moved to the opposite side with a backward-looking intoxication with the old. A division was established in the Church.”

The Pope went on to tell the gathering of 15 Jesuits in Quebec on July 29 that his actions with regard to the liturgy have “aimed to follow the line taken by John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who had allowed the ancient rite and had asked for subsequent verification.”

“The most recent verification made it clear that there was a need to regulate the practice, and above all to avoid it becoming a matter, let us say, of ‘fashion’ and remaining instead a pastoral question,” Francis said.

“I look forward to the studies that will refine the reflection on the theme that is important: the liturgy is the people of God’s public praise.”

Doctrine

In the hour-long conversation with the local Jesuits, the Pope also spoke about tradition and doctrine.

He said: “The vision of the doctrine of the Church as monolithic, to be defended without nuance is wrong. That is why it is important to have respect for tradition, the authentic one.”

Pope Francis then made a distinction between “tradition” and “traditionalism.” He said that “tradition is the living memory of believers,” while “traditionalism instead is the dead life of our believers.”

“We must take the origin as a reference, not a particular historical experience taken as a perpetual model, as if we had to stop there. ‘Yesterday it was done like this’ becomes ‘it always has been done like this.’ But this is a paganism of thought! What I have said also applies to legal matters, to law,” the Pope said.

Unity

Pope Francis praised the Canadian bishops for acting in unity with one another, saying that “miracles … can happen when the Church is united.”

“This Canadian experience is an example of a united episcopate. When an episcopate is united, then it can deal with the challenges that arise,” he said.

“Of course, there is no point hiding it, there are some who work against healing and reconciliation, in society as in the Church. Even last night I saw a small traditionalist group protesting, and saying that the Church is something else. … But that is the way things are,” he added.

The Pope cautioned that “one of the worst enemies” of Church unity today is “ideology.”

Synodality

Pope Francis spoke at length about “synodality” and shared a story about his experience participating in the Synod of Bishops in 2001 as a relator when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

A relator presents a summary of the topics that emerge during the synod discussion, as well as information and clarifying points for the synod’s final document. 

Pope Francis recalled: “I remember that the opinions were collected and sent to the general secretariat. Then I gathered the material and prepared it for the vote. The secretary of the synod came to see me, read the material, and told me to remove this or that detail.”

“There were things he did not consider appropriate and he censored them. There was, in short, a pre-selection of material. There was little understanding of what a synod is. At the end of the last synod, in the survey on the topics to be dealt with in the next one, the first two were the priesthood and synodality.” 

“I understood that it was necessary to reflect on the theology of synodality in order to make a decisive step forward,” he added.

Pope Francis said that he launched the two-year global consultation process leading to the 2023 synod on synodality to reiterate that “the Church is either synodal or it is not Church.”

“If you want to read the best book of theology on the synod, then re-read the Acts of the Apostles,” he said.

José Benlliure Ortiz, “Leaving Mass in Rocafort,” 1915

On Suffering and Hope and Forever

‘In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.’ (CCC 1368)

José Benlliure Ortiz, “Leaving Mass in Rocafort,” 1915

On Suffering and Hope and Forever

‘In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.’ (CCC 1368)