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A summary of the brief off-the-cuff speech Francis gave during his unscheduled visit to Seoul’s Sogang University

Andrea Tornielli – Seoul

Yesterday evening Francis paid a surprise visit to Seoul’s Sogang University to meet with some Jesuits. Once again, he asked priests, novices and young people still in training to be merciful and not succumb to the temptation of clericalism leading them to turn into “state clerics”. His words echoed the spontaneous comments he made during his meeting with Korea’s bishops. This is a sign that he intended these as pointers for the Korean Church. A transcription of the speech, which he gave off the cuff, was published by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, editor-in-chief of La Civiltà Cattolica and not by the Holy See Press Office. Fr. Spadaro was present at the meeting.

 

“There is one word that really gets me: consolation. Consolation is God’s presence in all possible forms. Our holy father St. Ignatius always always tried to confirm the decision to reform one’s life or the choice of a state of life through the second method of “election”: consolation. Top those who receive it, consolation is a beautiful word. But offering consolation is not easy. When I read the Prophet Isaiah’s Book of Comfort, I read that consolation is a work of God, who consoles his people. When someone experiences a painful situation, if they do so with love, it becomes a seed of consolation for this person.”

The people of God need consolation, they need to be comforted, “consuelo” (the Spanish word for “comfort”, Ed.). I see the Church as a field hospital right now. The people of God are asking us for consolation. There are so many wounds that need comforting … We need to listen to the words of Isaiah: “Comfort, comfort my people!” There are no wounds that cannot be consoled with God’s love. This is how we should live: searching for Jesus Christ so that this love brings comfort to people’s wounds and heals them.”

Francis then referred back to the theatrical performance which young people put on for him a little earlier, at the shrine of Solmoe: “This evening a group of young people gave us a performance based on the parable of the Prodigal Son. This perfectly illustrates God’s attitude towards our wounds. God always offers comfort, always hopes, always forgets, always forgives. There are many wounds in the Church. Wounds which we practicing Catholics and ministers of the Catholic Church are often the cause of.”

“Do not scold the people of God! Console them!” the Pope urged his Jesuit audience. “Our clerical attitude so often leads to clericalism which is so harmful to the Church. A priest is not a state cleric but a pastor. Please be pastors and not state clerics. And when you are in the confessional remember that God never tires of forgiving. Be merciful!”

Fr. Spadaro described the Pope’s speech as “simple and powerful and centred around one word, consolation, which for us Jesuits is a key word: spiritual consolation. He said we are ministers of consolation, that sometimes the Church goes through a tough time, sometimes it experiences wounds and sometimes the ministers of the Church are responsible for people’s wounds. And he spoke of the Church as a “field hospital”, an image he used in our interview. He reiterated it, setting it in stone. This is his vision of the Church. So our task as Jesuits – and more generally as ministers of the Gospel, as priests, as men and women religious – is to be people who offer consolation, bring peace to people and heal wounds. He repeated this in many different ways, with the kind of intense emphasis that is impossible to replicate in a transcription.”