Pope Francis Warns Against ‘Privatizing’ Christianity

AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

At his daily morning Mass Thursday, Pope Francis preached on false models of Christian living, warning his hearers against privatizing salvation and forming elite church cliques, rather than living as members of the people of God.

The Pope said that salvation is not generic, but personal. Jesus saves “each one, with first and last name,” he said. “The Lord looked at me and gave His life for me.”

At the same time, Francis warned against “privatizing” the faith and forgetting that we also belong to God’s people, and that He saves us as a people.

There is a danger, Francis said, “of forgetting that He saved us individually, but in a people.” From the moment God called Abraham, He said, “He promises to make of him a people. And the Lord saves us in a people.”

In the Bible, in fact, Saint Peter writes to the early Christians, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.”

The Pope said that privatizing salvation leads to a selfish neglect of the community and trying to find salvation our way, rather than God’s way. “There is no salvation just for me,” Francis said. “If I understand the salvation in this way, I am mistaken.” He further asserted, “Privatization of salvation is the wrong path.”

The Pope said there are three criteria for living in the community of the church and not privatizing salvation: faith, hope, and love. When I’m in a parish, or in a community, Francis said, “I can privatize salvation and just be there a little socially. But in order not to privatize I have to ask myself whether I speak, and communicate the faith; whether I speak and communicate hope; whether I speak, live and communicate charity.”

“If people in a community don’t speak, encouraging each other in these three virtues, the members of that community have privatized the faith,” he said. “Everyone seeks his own salvation, not the salvation of all, the salvation of the people. And Jesus has saved everyone, but in a people, in a church.”

The Pope also cited the letter to the Hebrews as giving very important practical advice to avoid this privatization, namely, “not neglecting our meetings, as some are in the habit of doing.” This neglect happens because we judge and disdain others, Francis said.

“They despise the others; they neglect the entire community; they neglect the people of God; they have privatized salvation: salvation is for me and for my clique, but not for all God’s people. And this is a very big mistake.” Francis called these self-constituted cliques “church elites.”

“God saves us in a people, not in elites,” he said. The Pope also offered questions for self-examination: “Do I have the tendency to privatize salvation for me, for my clique, for my elite?” he asked. “Do I neglect the people of God, withdrawing from God’s people and/or am I always in community, in the family, with the language of faith, hope, and the language of the works of charity?”

Francis concluded by praying that the Lord will “give us the grace to feel more like the people of God, saved personally. That’s true: He saves us by name, but he saves us in a people, not in the clique that I form for myself.”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.


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