A Spanish archbishop has asked the Pope: “Why not include the poor in the Creed?”

– A “crazy” proposal

Santiago Agrelo, the archbishop emeritus of Tanger in Morocco, told Spanish religion news website Religión Digital October 9 that on one occasion in the past he wrote to Pope Francis with what he labelled a seemingly “crazy” proposal.

“Why not include the poor in the Creed? And I told him exactly where: ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, anointed and sent to evangelise the poor, the communion of saints…’“.

Agrelo went on to reveal that the Pope responded to his petition. “He answered me with a lot of humor, saying, ‘I will consult with reliable people about that'”, the archbishop recalled.

– “We owe a debt of justice to the poor”

Explaining his proposal to modify the Church’s central confession of faith to include the poor, Agrelo insisted that “it is a fact that the poor have to enter into our preaching, into our faith. Jesus was anointed by the Spirit to evangelise the poor”.

Reflecting on a lifetime of nearly 60 years as a Franciscan and 55 years as a priest, the 78-year-old archbishop said he had come to realise “a mountain of things” from his human contact with the least of the world.

“That we owe a debt of justice to the poor; that there is a divine mandate that calls us to care for the poor; that the Son of God became poor to be good news – the gospel – for the poor; that the only criterion by which our life will be judged seems to be that of whether or not we take care of the poor. So one wonders about the mission of the Church in relation to the poor”, Agrelo explained.

The prelate shared that his “heart” told him “that the Church cannot have a different relationship with the poor than the one Jesus had”.

“He was anointed by the Spirit to evangelise the poor. And if the head, Christ, was, I understand that also the body, that is, the Church, is too. I have no doubt about that”, Agrelo highlighted.

“It is another thing entirely as to whether this certainty enters into the creed of our celebrations”, he admitted. But he said that if his suggestion to the Pope that he include that extra line in the Creed seems like “madness”, it is a “luminous madness: a permanent reminder that the Church is called to be gospel for the poor, as Jesus was”.

“The criterion for the authenticity of Jesus’ mission is that the poor are evangelised. I suppose that is also the criterion of authenticity of the mission of the Church”, Agrelo stressed.

– On refugee and migrant crises: “We all have the same rights, which jump across borders”

Agrelo was speaking to Religión Digital in the context of a webinar on the Pope’s new encyclical Fratelli tutti, of which the archbishop said “if it is read without ideological prejudice, it has a language that touches the heart”.

Agrelo is widely known and appreciated in his native Spain for his unwavering and outspoken defence of the migrants, refugees and displaced people who leave Africa hoping to reach European shores.

On that point, the archbishop insisted that the solution to European migrant and refugee crises “is not simply to drop aid from the sky: blankets or bread”, but instead must rely on political answers, even if “we are up against economic interests”.

“Since I went to Morocco in 2007, the situation of migrants has only gotten worse”, he denounced, with the “policies of border protection and the supposed defence of those of us who remain inside”.

But instead of those policies and politics of walls, Agrelo pleaded for a more compassionate approach to those who make it to Europe. “We all have the same rights, which jump across borders”, the archbishop underlined.

More on Novena on Archbishop Agrelo:

Spanish-African archbishop issues powerful plea for migrants: “People have rights, borders do not; the poor have rights, money does not”

Spanish archbishop: “I don’t care about what comes after death. I care about those who in their lives have known nothing but suffering”

Spanish-African bishops insist: “No Christian should have a negative attitude towards immigrants”

Spanish bishop blasts Francis critic Cardinal Sarah for living “easy” Christianity

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.