(RNS) When Pope Francis visited Mexico last month, he was welcomed by huge, cheering crowds.
But it turns out not everyone was so happy with the pontiff’s visit — namely, his host for the nearly weeklong trip, the Archdiocese of Mexico City, headed by Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera.
In an unusual critique, the archdiocesan weekly on Sunday (March 6) published an editorial that sharply rejects statements Francis made in a blunt speech to the country’s bishops in which the pope told them, “We do not need ‘princes,’ but rather a community of the Lord’s witnesses.”
In off-the-cuff remarks, Francis also told the Mexican prelates not to argue behind each other’s backs but “as men, face to face.” In his prepared text he told them to “overcome the temptation of aloofness … and clericalism, of coldness and indifference, of triumphalism and self-centeredness.”
The archdiocesan editorial rejected those exhortations and said Francis either did not know the Mexican hierarchy or was misinformed.
“The Mexican bishops have been accompanying the suffering, downtrodden people, devoting their lives to others and not living like ‘princes,’” the editorial said, according to The Associated Press.
“Does the pope have some reason to scold the Mexican bishops?” the editorial continued. It went on to boast that the Mexican church is in fact stronger than those in other Latin American countries and is more forceful in resisting the growth of Protestant and Pentecostal churches that are having great successes elsewhere.
“Why try to undermine the work of the Mexican bishops?” it concluded. “Or is it that the improvised words of the Holy Father were the result of bad advice from someone close to him?”
The rector of the Pontifical University of Mexico, the Rev. Mario Angel Flores, told the AP that he thought the editorial was a bad idea and that the pope’s comments “were very frank words, inviting everyone to be more clear.”
“They are trying to downplay and question his words, which is not the most correct thing to do,” Flores said.
(David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS)