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The pope's appreciation for community is only magnified in his discussion of the church. Belonging to a people has strong theological value, the pope said. "In the history of salvation, God has saved a people. There is no full identity without belonging to a people. No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in the human community. God enters into this dynamic, this participation in the web of human relationships…. And all the faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief, and the people display this infallibilitas in credendo, this infallibility in believing, through a supernatural sense of the faith of all the people walking together." Perhaps this is a prophetic word for Christians who want Jesus apart from institutionalized religion.

For Francis, the church consists of "the people of God, pastors and people together. The church is the totality of God's people." He even said that we all can be part of a "holy middle class." Protestants reading this will likely hear echoes of their own understanding of the "priesthood of all believers"—that all Christians (despite class, rank, or title) are considered "spiritual" before God. For the pope, there seems to be no sacred-secular divide: "I see the holiness in the patience of the people of God: a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity. This is for me the common sanctity."

Discernment and Reform

When asked what element of Jesuit spirituality helps him to be pope, Francis said, "Discernment is one of the things that worked inside St. Ignatius. For him it is an instrument of struggle in order to know the Lord and follow him more closely." He also said that the Jesuit "must be a person whose thought is incomplete, in the sense of open-ended thinking." He also said he aims to "hear the things of God from 'God's point of view.'" For him, discernment, reform, and change take time.

So what needs reforming? He wants to see the church as a "field hospital." He said, "The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, 'This is not a sin,' or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds."

But he also wants ministers to live on the "frontiers." His Jesuit missionary mindset wants the church to "step outside itself and to those people who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent." And he wants to see clergy "who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people's night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials."

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What You Should Know About the Pope's New Interview