Any comparison between the Bishop of Limburg and our own Cardinal Collins is a study in contrasts. While Bishop van Elst has a reputation which has earned him the appellation "the luxury bishop" by Der Spiegel our own Cardinal has quite the opposite reputation. When he became archbishop he chose to live in the rectory of the cathedral instead of the mansion occupied by his predecessors. He has an open, friendly manner which has been apparent to those encountering him in restaurants downtown over morning coffee. There is, however, an unfortunate similarity. Both prelates are presently involved in diocesan building projects involving the diocesan center.
The lands adjacent to St. Michael's Cathedral are an entire city block currently occupied by the cathedral, the choir school, some houses and a large parking lot. The pastoral plan involves developing this land in such a way as to provide for the needs of the choir school, cathedral and a diocesan center. We have not seen any concrete financial proposals but I am told that will be coming in 2014. I would hope that this development can be carried out without any financial levy on the parishes of the archdiocese. As one man pointed out to me... the people in Barrie and beyond do not care much about what goes on in downtown Toronto. They might be motivated to care for the elderly and disadvantaged in their own backyard.
I would hope that the cardinal and his advisers will take to heart the comments of Pope Francis in Assisi in the room where St. Francis divested himself of all his possessions... the room of stripping.
My Brother Bishop said that this is the first time in 800 years that a Pope has come here. In recent days the newspapers and media have been stirring up fantasies. “The Pope is going to strip the Church, there!”. “What will he strip from the Church?”. “He is going to strip bishops and cardinals of their vestments; then he will divest himself”. This is, indeed, a good occasion to invite the Church to divest herself. But we are all the Church! All of us! Beginning with the newly baptized, we are all Church, and we must all follow the path of Jesus, who himself took the road of renunciation. He became a servant, one who serves; he chose to be humiliated even to the Cross. And if we want to be Christians, there is no other way. But can’t we make Christianity a little more human — they say — without the cross, without Jesus, without renunciation? In this way we would become like Christians in a pastry shop, saying: what beautiful cakes, what beautiful sweets! Truly beautiful, but not really Christians! Someone could ask: “Of what must the Church divest herself?”. Today she must strip herself of a very grave danger, which threatens every person in the Church, everyone: the danger of worldliness. The Christian cannot coexist with the spirit of the world, with the worldliness that leads us to vanity, to arrogance, to pride. And this is an idol, it is not God. It is an idol! And idolatry is the gravest of sins!
When the media speaks about the Church, they believe the Church is made up of priests, sisters, bishops, cardinals and the Pope. But we are all the Church, as I said. And we all must strip ourselves of this worldliness: the spirit opposing the spirit of the Beatitudes, the spirit opposing the spirit of Jesus. Worldliness hurts us. It is so very sad to find a worldly Christian, sure — according to him — of that security that the faith gives and of the security that the world provides. You cannot be on both sides. The Church — all of us — must strip herself of the worldliness that leads to vanity, to pride, that is idolatry.
Jesus himself told us: “You cannot serve two masters: either you serve God or you serve mammon” (cf. Mt 6:24). In mammon itself there is this worldly spirit; money, vanity, pride, that path... we cannot take it... it is sad to erase with one hand what we write with the other. The Gospel is the Gospel! God is one! And Jesus made himself a servant for our sake and the spirit of the world has nothing to do with this. Today I am here with you. Many of you have been stripped by this callous world that offers no work, no help. To this world it doesn’t matter that there are children dying of hunger; it doesn’t matter if many families have nothing to eat, do not have the dignity of bringing bread home; it doesn’t matter that many people are forced to flee slavery, hunger and flee in search of freedom. With how much pain, how often don’t we see that they meet death, like yesterday in Lampedusa: today is a day of tears! The spirit of the world causes these things. It is unthinkable that a Christian — a true Christian — be it a priest, a sister, a bishop, a cardinal or a Pope, would want to go down this path of worldiness, which is a homicidal attitude. Spiritual worldliness kills! It kills the soul! It kills the person! It kills the Church!
When Francis, here, made the gesture of divesting himself he was a young boy, he didn’t have the strength for this. It was the strength of God that impelled him to do this, the strength of God who wanted to remind us of what Jesus prayed to the Father, that the Father save us from the spirit of the world. Today, here, let us ask for grace for all Christians. May the Lord give to all of us the courage to strip ourselves of the spirit of the world, not of 20 lire, but the spirit of the world, which is the leprosy, the cancer of society! It is the cancer of God’s revelation! The spirit of the world is the enemy of Jesus! I ask the Lord that, he give us all this grace to strip ourselves. Thank you!