What did Pope Francis really say?

I had the chance finally to review, to listen to, Pope Francis sermon for 1 January, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.  It was interesting especially because I had first reviewed the written text that was released in the Bolletino (and was released before Mass under embargo).

However, it is always necessary to verify a text against what was actually spoken.  Most of the time, small changes make little difference.

This time, however, there was a variation that caught my ear, because it seemed a departure from how Francis usually speaks.

CONTEXT: The paragraph about the unity of Christ and the Church, and then Mary as Mother of the Church, in the official English translation from the Bolletino. My emphasis for the part that interests me:

Likewise inseparable are Christ and the Church – because the Church and Mary are always together and this is precisely the mystery of womanhood in the ecclesial community – and the salvation accomplished by Jesus cannot be understood without appreciating the motherhood of the Church. To separate Jesus from the Church would introduce an “absurd dichotomy”, as Blessed Paul VI wrote (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 16). It is not possible “to love Christ but without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to belong to Christ but outside the Church” (ibid.). For the Church is herself God’s great family, which brings Christ to us. Our faith is not an abstract doctrine or philosophy, but a vital and full relationship with a person: Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God who became man, was put to death, rose from the dead to save us, and is now living in our midst. Where can we encounter him? We encounter him in the Church, in our hierarchical, Holy Mother Church. It is the Church which says today: “Behold the Lamb of God”; it is the Church, which proclaims him; it is in the Church that Jesus continues to accomplish his acts of grace which are the sacraments.

The Italian official text of the part I emphasized:

Dove lo possiamo incontrare? Lo incontriamo nella Chiesa.

Note that there is no “hierarchical” in the official Italian (“Where can we encounter him? We encounter him in the Church.”), though in the official English there is.

The English version is correct.  Pope Francis stuck in a few words that were not in his written text (as released).  The English version was updated, and the Italian was not.  The French updated the text.  The German updated the text.  The Spanish does NOT update the text, and it lacks “hierarchical”.  Portuguese does NOT update.  The Polish updated.

I am not sure what’s up with that.

However, my mind flits back to how the Synod’s Relatio post disceptationem was swiftly translated into several language in a matter of hours, and distributed, but somehow the Relatio Synodi has encountered problems.

Pope Francis, who has clearly taken a populist tone, doesn’t talk about his role as “Pope”, preferring to emphasize “Bishop of Rome”.  Except, of course, at the end of the Synod in October, when he hammered the point that he is Pope.  He tends to play down, and, it must be said, even run down the Church’s hierarchy, as is evident from his daily, non-Magisterial fervorini during Mass and during his 2014 Christmas Address to the Roman Curia.

Therefore, when I heard Pope Francis say, clearly, ” Lo incontriamo nella Chiesa… nella nostra santa Madre Chiesa gerarchica.”

It isn’t a big deal for a Pope to say that the Church is “hierarchical”.  That’s part of our Catholic Faith, though it is downplayed or left in silence by some of our catholic brethren.  It isn’t unusual for a Pope to say something that the Second Vatican Council clearly taught in Lumen gentium, ch. 3.  However, it did perk up my ear this time, given the present environment.  This could be of more interest for the quality control of translations and actually getting what the Pope says, than what he says.


I received this from a Jesuit reader with my emphases:

I, too, was struck by Pope Francis’ use of the term “nostra santa Madre Chiesa gerarchica.” It is an expression that St. Ignatius uses towards the end of his Spiritual Exercises at the beginning of the “Rules for Thinking, Judging, and Feeling with the Church”:  [NB: When Francis talks about “sentire cum Ecclesia”, he means something other than what the LCWR nuns thought!]

353: The First Rule. With all judgment of our own put aside, we ought to keep our minds disposed and ready to be obedient in everything to the true Spouse of Christ our Lord, which is our holy Mother the hierarchical Church.

In the edition of the Spiritual Exercises I am using (by George E. Ganss, S.J., of the Institute of Jesuit Sources) the footnote to the section suggests that this view of the Church as hierarchical fits well with Ignatius’ vision of the Society organized with strong superiors.  The other 17 rules follow from this first rule, for example, the 13th:

“To keep ourselves right in all things, we ought to hold fast to this principle: What seems to me to be white, I will believe to be black if the hierarchical Church thus determines it. For we believe that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, his Spouse, there is the one same Spirit who governs and guides us for the salvation of our souls. For it is by the same Spirit and Lord of ours who gave the ten commandments that our Holy Mother Church is guided and governed.”

Fr. Manuel Ruiz Jurado, S.J., a former president of the Institute of Spirituality at the Pontifical Gregorian Institute, sees these Rules as the transference of the exercitant’s love and allegiance for Jesus, which has been prayed for and strengthened during the month of the Exercises, to the visible Church, Christ’s living spouse and body. [For the Greater Glory of God: A Spiritual Retreat with St. Ignatius. The Word Among Us Press, 2002. pp 190-193.]

Really helpful!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. texsain says:

    It’s unusual insofar as “hierarchical” is one of those no-no words that progressives hate. It’s sad that simple things like this surprise us coming from the Pope.

  2. Bosco says:

    It will be interesting to have a precise translation of the soon-to-be papal Encyclical on the environment versus what Francis might say at the UN on the matter.

  3. I think we just discovered the next incarnation of your blog for this year: “What Did the Pope Really Say?” Same Acronym too!

  4. Christophorus1208 says:

    I assumed that was a kind of Ignatian expression I’ve noticed him use. I remember it from an address he made to Jesuits and then in his “Big Heart Open to God” interview. It stands out in my mind since it wasn’t without some head scratching for me. The following is one of the applicable quotes from the interview

    “This is how it is with Mary: If you want to know who she is, you ask theologians; if you want to know how to love her, you have to ask the people. In turn, Mary loved Jesus with the heart of the people, as we read in the Magnificat. We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.”
    After a brief pause, Pope Francis emphasizes in a very direct manner the following point, in order to avoid misunderstandings: “And, of course, we must be very careful not to think that this infallibilitas of all the faithful I am talking about in the light of Vatican II is a form of populism. No; it is the experience of ‘holy mother the hierarchical church,’ as St. Ignatius called it, the church as the people of God, pastors and people together. The church is the totality of God’s people.”

  5. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Is there anything distinctive about “comunità ecclesiale” in the first sentence of that paragraph (in this context)? (Lumen gentium, 15 came to mind – “comunità ecclesiali” in the Italian – but how relevantly?)

  6. gramma10 says:

    I would have never noticed without your help Fr. Z. Thank you.
    I picture the Church as a BODY like a real figure of a body…being Christ’s Body. The Body of Christ. It has a Head. Then all the rest of the parts are of importance from the top down.
    Each part has a role but the Head is at the top, the CEO!

  7. janeway529 says:

    Father Z, just FYI, the Vatican has their own YouTube Channel where they livestream and record for later viewing the Major Masses of the year, plus Papal Audiences, and more.

    Whole homily starts at 30:10 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCjx1YAxz7o

  8. Andrew says:

    The documents of Vatican II are replete with the term “hierarchy” and “hierarchical”. As an example: “Lumen Gentium” uses the word 25 times. You can open the document and do a simple search (Ctl F) of “hierar” to see for yourself.

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