QUITO – Pope Francis on Wednesday urged religious workers not to fall into “spiritual Alzheimers” and forget that they must always serve the people in improvised remarks at the sanctuary of Our Lady of Quinche, on the outskirts of Quito.
“Today, I have (the chance) to speak with priests and religious workers and to tell you something. I have a prepared speech but I don’t want to read it,” said the pontiff.
Francis urged his audience to “return to the road toward gratuitousness whereby God selected you” and he reminded them “that you paid no entry fees to enter the religious life and the seminary.”
“You did not deserve it,” the pope told the priests, religious workers and bishops.
The pontiff warned of the danger of forgetting this and “believing yourselves to be important people,” alluding to those who feel important because they have been promoted to monsignors or bishops.
“Take care of your health, but above all do not fall into another illness which is dangerous, and that is spiritual Alzheimers, losing your memory,” he said.
He also recommended to his audience not to forget where “you came from and not to deny your roots.”
The Argentine pope also exhorted the clergy not to forget that their mission is service and that they cannot “remain at home watching a soap opera on television.”
The members of the Catholic clergy must go out and serve others, Francis said, and “freely give what you freely received.”
The pope also asked them not to take anything in exchange for providing parish services to the public.
He also spoke of the Ecuadorian people and emphasized how everywhere he had gone in the South American country they had appeared “happy, cordial, religious and pious” to him.
“I wanted to ask what this people’s recipe is,” he added.
The address was the last item on the pope’s agenda in Ecuador and he will shortly be taken to the Quito airport to fly to Bolivia.