The Church has been existing and continues to exist not only exclusively because of her ministers though they help a lot but on the grace of God. She is composed of both saints and sinners and this holds true even for those entrusted by the Church to preach her message. Jesus himself warned his disciples regarding those who are causing scandal like the scribes and Pharisees in his time: “therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.” (Mt 23:3)

Although it is very helpful that the preachers themselves are followers of Jesus, throughout the history of the Church there were also those who had been false shepherds and false prophets. What is surprising is that in spite of these “filth in the Church” which seem to destroy the Church from the inside, the Church still continues to share her message of love, forgiveness, peace, justice, human rights, the dignity of the human person, respect for environment, and universal fraternity, etc.

The scandals are not caused by the majority of her members, yet it is not a reason to close our eyes to them. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI hinted that these could ultimately come from the Evil One himself. On the other hand Jesus promised to Peter that the “gates of hell will not prevail against” the Church.

Pope Francis, at the Dublin stadium said, “You families are the hope of the Church and of the world”. With this enthusiasm he embraced the newlyweds gathered for the Word Meeting of Families. The next day Mass was celebrated at Phoenix Park, the largest urban park in Europe. Under a harsh rain, hundreds of thousands of families filled the large lawn.

The elderly ones could still remember the extraordinary encounter that John Paul II had with Ireland on September 29, 1979. The same large white cross 35 meters high, which was erected for that event, towered behind Pope Francis.

That immense crucifix seemed a warning. The Pope had a somber and mournful expression in those hours. Slanderous accusations about his person were hitting the Church like a hailstorm, obscuring the beauty of that meeting in the media. Phoenix Park is called “Clear Water Park”, a name that resonates with the deeper meaning of the papacy of Francis, in spite of those who create confusion and division.

The Church herself is doing her part in rectifying the wrong deeds, rehabilitating the victims and preventing future abuses. This is probably the reason for such a ferocious rage even within the Church. Francis is a kind of disinfectant, which stings when applied to the painful wounds of the Church.

It stings because, like the best medicines, it is having an effect. In a similar way to what happened with the last few popes, he is completing in his flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Jesus, “in favor of his body which is the Church” (Col 1, 24)…We believe that we can overcome this trial in history just as in the past centuries. We thank God that we have Pope Francis to lead us in this critical moment in Church history.

St. Pope Paul VI wrote that, “the Church remains. It remains amidst the storms of history. The Church stands firm and strong in the events of this world, to preach the Gospel of eternal salvation to all. It awaits the final and triumphal return of Jesus, the Savior. This is what we wish to remind you, a lamp, a hope for everyone that does not die out and gives meaning and beauty also to the present life.”

Fr. Paolo Gentili and Fr. Am Mijares
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