“Clericalism shouldn’t have anything to do with Christianity”
For those who know me, they would not be surprised to hear that I am anti-clerical. I am sickened when I witness clergy who expect special treatment, or who gush before their bishops, like court officials in some kingdom of bygone days. I was thus delighted to read a news report, some time ago, that Pope Francis has vowed to change the mindset of the Roman Catholic church, declaring that the institution “must return to being a community of the people of God” and rethink the relationship between its leaders and the laity.
The Pope went on to say, “Leaders of the Church have often been Narcissus, flattered and sickeningly excited by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy. Sometimes when I meet a cleric, I suddenly become anti-clerical,” the pontiff said. “Clericalism shouldn’t have anything to do with Christianity.”
I like this pope, and I pray we Orthodox clergy, be we lowly monks like myself, or patriarchs, archbishops, archimandrites, or mitered archpriests, pay attention to the prophetic witness of this man of God. I pray we will not simply dismiss the Roman pope’s words, and his humble example, as those of the leader of a church in schism from Orthodoxy, but hear his words as coming from a man who loves Christ, and who wishes to reverse the terrible turning away from God.
This world cannot well afford the remnant of Christianity to continue living the bad example of privilege, power and wealth, while witnessing the slaughter of innocent Christians in the Middle East, the mass turning away from Christ in the West, and the masses of people lost in poverty and hopelessness.
It would do us well, as priests and bishops, to remember that the kissing of our hand by the laity is not about us. It is given as a way of honoring Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the priest is a servant of Christ and steward of the Mysteries. When someone kisses his right hand, it is about Christ, and Christ only.
“And for their sake I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth” (John 17:19). To sanctify means to consecrate. Christ consecrated Himself for the ministry and our redemption. All the ranks of the priesthood are consecrated for ministry, according to the example of Christ, the High Priest, and if we truly follow the example of Christ, we will serve His people as simple servants. And for we Orthodox, we need only look to the examples of the humble Orthodox Clerics and true priests and ministers, Patriarch Pavle of Blessed Memory of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and Archbishop (now saint) John of San Francisco.
Love in Christ,