In his meeting with staff of the Vatican offices Monday, Pope Francis compared priests to airplanes, noting that they only make news when they fall, and yet “there are so many still flying.”
“Many criticize priests,” the Pope continued, “and yet few pray for them.” Francis said that the saying is clever, but also highlights a great truth. It showcases “the importance and sensitivity of our priestly service,” he said, and helps us realize “how much bad can be done to the whole body of the Church by a single priest who ‘falls.’”
The Pope encouraged the priests to do a good examination of conscience prior to Christmas and to go to confession. “In order not to fall in these days when we prepare for Confession,” he said, “ask the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, to heal the wounds of sin that each of us carries in his heart and to support the Church and the Curia so that they are healthy and healing; holy and sanctifying.”
We shouldn’t think of ourselves as “immune” from disease, the Pope told his hearers. A Curia that is not self-critical, he said, “is a sick body.”
He also warned against having an inflated view of ourselves, considering ourselves as indispensable. “An ordinary visit to cemeteries could help us to see the names of so many people, some of whom probably thought they were immortal, immune and indispensable!” he said.
“The antidote to this epidemic,” the Pope said, “is the grace to feel like sinners and say with our whole heart: ‘We are unprofitable servants. We did what we had to do.’”
The Pope prayed “to have the courage to recognize ourselves as sinners in need of mercy.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome