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Cuban Cardinal's Claim: Francis Delivered Criticisms of Catholic Church Just Before Becoming Pope


"Masterful, insightful, engaging and true..."

Pope Francis delivered tough criticism of the Catholic Church just hours before he became pontiff, according to one insider account.

Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana claims that Francis issued a strong rebuke of the church just before he became its top leader. The pope's alleged comments were made as the College of Cardinals were meeting at the conclave.

In addition to decrying "theological narcissism," the then-cardinal said that the Vatican needs to escape from self-absorption. Francis encouraged a focus on injustice, sin, suffering and ignorance (areas that he apparently called "peripheries").

Pope Francis kisses 8-month-old Victoria Maria Marino from Sicily after delivering his blessing to the palms and to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square during Palm Sunday Mass on March 24, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Francis lead his first mass of Holy Week as pontiff by celebrating Palm Sunday in front of thousands of faithful and clergy. The pope's first holy week will also incorporate him washing the feet of prisoners in a youth detention centre in Rome next Thursday, 28th March. Credit: Getty Images 

"The church is called on to emerge from itself and move toward the peripheries, not only geographic but also existential (ones): those of sin, suffering, injustice, ignorance and religious abstention, thought and all misery," Bergoglio reportedly said. "When the church does not emerge from itself to evangelize, it becomes self-referential and therefore becomes sick. ... The evils that, over time, occur in ecclesiastical institutions have their root in self-referentiality, a kind of theological narcissism."

Francis also said that the church "lives within itself, of itself and for itself" and he called the next pope (and the time he didn't know it would be him) to help the Catholic Church move beyond this dynamic.

Ortega's claims were published in Palabra Nueva, a Cuban-Catholic magazine. He told the outlet that, contrary to finding the statements offensive, he found them "masterful, insightful, engaging and true" and so he received permission from the pope to release their contents (Ortego also obtained a copy of Francis' words in written form as well).

The Cuban faith leader first shared the pope's thoughts during a weekend mass and then they were subsequently published on the magazine's web site.


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