An Indian priest has been asked to take a break from his parish in the small Italian town of Montesilvano after some in his congregation reportedly stormed out of Mass when he openly criticized Pope Francis on Palm Sunday.
Father Edward Pushparaj said that Francis has been only bad for the church, referring to Francis washing the feet of a Muslim woman during his 2013 Holy Thursday liturgy.
Media reports claimed the congregation shouted “Shame, shame!” at Father Pushparaj when he said Pope Francis had only been “bad” for the Catholic Church.
The episode has forced the local bishop, Archbishop Tommaso Valentinetti of the Archdiocese of Pescara-Penne, to intervene; he has pledged to meet the disgruntled parishioners from St. Anthony of Padua parish.
In an article published on the archdiocesan website, Archbishop Valentinetti suggested that Fr. Pushparaj, an assistant pastor at the church who is also known as Don Edward, may have overstepped the mark during his preaching.
“Preaching is one of the main activities in the ministry of a priest,” Valentinetti said. “It is a service linked to meditation on the Word of the day, the liturgy, and certainly cannot relate to personal judgments, especially when they are not in communion with the pope.”
In his homily Fr. Pushparaj reportedly referred to the pope’s dialogue with other faiths and in particular his decision to wash the feet of a Muslim woman at a detention center outside Rome on Holy Thursday in 2013, Francis’ first as pope.
“In four years Pope Francis has only been bad for the church,” the priest reportedly said.
According to Italian media reports, Fr. Pushparaj’s parishioners have been complaining about the priest for some weeks and claim he has criticized the pope’s exhortation on the family, “Amoris Laetitia,” or “The Joy of Love.”
Pope Francis has often come under withering criticism from conservative Catholics over his efforts to set the church on a more pastoral path that is less focused on rules and older rites and traditions.
Archbishop Valentinetti said that Fr Pushparaj may have been influenced in his anger at Pope Francis by certain “clericalist and pseudo-traditionalist currents that the pope, fortunately, goes against.”
The archbishop said he hoped Fr. Pushparaj was just weary and in need of a rest.
“I think it’s fair to ask the priest to take some time to rest and release him, temporarily, from his pastoral duties,” Archbishop Valentinetti said in the article on the archdiocesan site.
Source: National Catholic Reporter
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