Criticism helps us to grow, but I want them to say it to my face - Pope Francis

Pope Francis has told his critics to “say it to my face” in response to a growing chorus of attacks by his conservative adversaries.

Feb 03, 2023

Pope Francis gestures during his interview with AP

VATICAN: Pope Francis has told his critics to “say it to my face” in response to a growing chorus of attacks by his conservative adversaries.

In a recent interview with the Associated Press, the Pope said he was not overly perturbed by the criticism from senior Vatican figures, describing it as “like a rash that bothers you a bit”.

“The only thing I ask is that they do it to my face because that’s how we all grow, right? You prefer that they don’t criticise, for the sake of tranquillity. At the same time, it is important that cardinals and bishops feel they have the freedom to speak out and that the papacy does not become a distant “dictatorship”, he said.

Concerning criticism he has received recently, through books or documents circulated among cardinals under pseudonyms, Pope Francis said that for him, as for everybody, it is better not to be criticised, for the sake of his “peace of mind.” But although criticisms are “like a rash, they are a bit annoying,” the Pope said. “I prefer them, because it means there is freedom of speech.” What is important, he said, is that criticisms should be made “to our faces because that’s how we all grow.” Criticism is worse, the Pope said, when it is “underhanded.”
The Pope noted that he had spoken with some of his critics. “Some of them have come here and yes, I have discussed things – normally, as one speaks among mature people. I did not argue with anyone, but I expressed my opinion and they expressed theirs. Otherwise, you create a dictatorship of distance, as I call it, where the emperor is there and nobody can say anything to him. No, let them say because the companionship, the criticism, helps us to grow and make things go well.”

Following the December 31 death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis has faced a new wave of criticism from the late pope’s long time personal assistant and cardinals that were close to Benedict.

The pontiff acknowledged that the knives were out, but seemed almost sanguine about it.

“I wouldn’t relate it to Benedict, but because of the wear-and-tear of a government of 10 years,” Pope Francis said of his papacy, which will reach the ten-year mark on March 13. At first, his election was greeted with a sense of “surprise” about a South American pope, then came discomfort “when they started to see my flaws and didn’t like them,” he said.

The first salvo in the wave of attacks came from Benedict’s longtime secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, who revealed the bad blood that accumulated over the last 10 years in a tell-all memoir published in the days after Benedict’s funeral.

In one of the most explosive sections, Gaenswein revealed that Benedict learned by reading the Vatican daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that Francis had reversed one of the former pope’s most significant liturgical decisions and re-imposed restrictions on celebrating the Old Latin Mass.

A few days later, the Vatican was rattled anew by the death of another conservative stalwart, Cardinal George Pell, and revelations that Pell was the author of a devastating memorandum that circulated last year that called the Francis pontificate a “disaster” and a “catastrophe.”
The memo, which was initially published under the pseudonym “Demos,” listed all the problems in the Vatican under Pope Francis, from its precarious finances to the pontiff’s preaching style, and issued bullet points for what a future pope should do to fix them.

The Holy Father acknowledged Pell’s criticism but still sang his praises for having been his “right-hand man” on reforming the Vatican’s finances as his first economy minister.

“Even though they say he criticised me, fine, he has the right. Criticism is a human right,” Francis said. But he added: “He was a great guy. Great.” — Agencies

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