On Monday Pope Francis offered some words of advice to a meeting of Italian bishops, saying to them it is not a sin to criticize the pope.
Pope Francis’ wisdom came at the opening of the Italian Episcopal Conference’s 71st General Assembly, which is taking place until May 24th with a theme of “Which Ecclesial Presence in the Current Communicative Context.”
In his opening address, Pope Francis shared with the assembly three concerns that trouble him. He spoke on the “hemorrhage of vocations,” calling the situation a “demographic winter” that has “our paternity at stake.”
Pope Francis also spoke on the importance of poverty in the priesthood and evangelical transparency, saying “without poverty there is no apostolic zeal, there is no life of service to others.” Finally Pope Francis addressed his concerns on the need to reduce or merge dioceses; while he noted the idea is not always popular he does believe that “there are dioceses that can be merged.”
In response to his concerns, Pope Francis asked for the assembly to frank with him in their discussion, urging them to “speak openly,” and tell them to share “all the words, your concerns, criticisms.” His final reassurance? Proclaiming it is not a sin to criticize the pope.
“It is not a sin to criticize the Pope here! It is not a sin, it can be done.”
You can read Pope Francis’ full address to the General Assembly on the Vatican’s website here.