26 September 2021, The Tablet

Pope warns against 'closed' groups claiming righteousness

Pope warns against 'closed' groups claiming righteousness

Pilgrims in St Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus.
CNS/Vatican Media

Pope Francis has warned against those doing the work of the devil by claiming “exclusive” rights over Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

Referring to today’s gospel reading from St Mark, Pope Francis cited Jesus’ warning that “instead of dividing people into good and bad, we are all called to watch over our hearts, so that we do not succumb to evil and give scandal to others”. 

Jesus had criticised the disciples for wanting to prevent someone who was not in their group from taking certain actions in the name of Jesus.

The disciples wanted to prevent a good work because the one who did it did not belong to their group, the Pope said. “They think that they have exclusive rights over Jesus and that they are the only ones authorised to work for the Kingdom of God.”

But in this way, they consider others as strangers, to the point of becoming hostile towards them. Pope Francis warned that the temptation to keep those who do not think like us at a distance “is the root of many evils in history, of absolutism that has often generated dictatorships and of so much violence against those who are different”.

The devil, who is the “divider” – the word’s roots are in division – insinuates suspicion to divide and exclude people. 

What are we to make of a gospel that seems, at first sight, to encourage self-mutilation? As always, the context, both historical and linguistic, is vital. Fr Alban McCoy OFM Conv also preaches today on the Gospel text Pope Francis uses for the Angelus, examing what happens when literalism becomes the enemy of truth.

“Sometimes we too, instead of being humble and open communities, can give the impression that we are ‘at the top of the class’ and keep others at a distance; instead of trying to walk with everyone, we can show our ‘believers’ licence.”

“We ask for the grace to overcome the temptation to judge and catalogue, and that God preserve us from the mentality of the ‘nest’, that of guarding ourselves jealously in the small group of those who consider themselves good: the priest with his faithful, the pastoral workers closed among of them so that no one infiltrates, the movements and associations in their own particular charism, and so on. Closed. All this risks making Christian communities places of separation and not of communion.”

The Holy Spirit wants open, welcoming communities where there is room for everyone, the Pope said.

After the Angelus, Pope Francis spoke of today’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees. “It is necessary to walk together, without prejudice and without fear, placing ourselves next to those who are most vulnerable: migrants, refugees, displaced persons, victims of trafficking and the abandoned. We are called to build an increasingly inclusive world that excludes no one,” he said.


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