Ireland’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin admits that Pope Francis is not the most popular man in the Vatican.

Speaking at Holy Thursday mass in Dublin yesterday, Archbishop Martin stated that members of the clergy may not always be the Pope’s biggest fan. “There are even priests who do not like him and Pope Francis recognizes that himself,” he said.

“Speaking last year to the priests of the diocese of Rome he said that some priests had spoken to him or had written to him saying: ‘But Holy Father, what have you got against priests?’. And he noted that they had said to him that he ‘bashes priests!’ That is a direct quote,’” Martin said.

The comment comes just months after Archbishop Martin rushed to the Pope’s defense against criticism from conservative Cardinal Raymond L. Burke.

Burke believed that the Pope led people “into error with regard to the teaching about marriage and other teachings” when, at a Synod for Bishops regarding the family, the Holy See called for an open discussion on how best to reach out to groups long condemned by the church. Burke began a campaign to remove the welcoming language of the Pope from the final report of the Synod so that it upheld long-standing teachings on marriage.

Archbishop Martin defended the Pope’s comments saying, “They fail to see how Pope Francis shows that his concern for people who suffer is far from being a sign of dogmatic relativism, but rather is a sign of pastoral patience.”

Martin believes that the current wave of criticism from the clergy stems from the Pope’s own criticism of priests. Martin tells how, before Christmas, “Pope Francis listed 15 sicknesses which affect those who work in the Roman Curia” and how he was “not shy in listing the professional illnesses of bishops and priests.”

One of the Pope’s main criticisms of priests was the ways in which they engage with their vocation. Speaking before Christmas, he said that there must be more authenticity and enthusiasm shown by those who are called to live their lives in the Lord’s service.

During the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass, Archbishop Martin commented on the Pope’s idea of mercy saying, “The problem is that we tend to develop our own idea of the relationship between mercy and truth, and at times we do so with an absolutism which belongs to God alone.”

He claims that the biggest challenge for Christians currently comes in the concept of mercy and, in particular, in recognizing “the love and the mercy of God.” He feels that to recognize this would “help us to scrape away from our own hearts .... the things which cause the alienation around us. Like Jesus himself we must be out on the road and become homeless to the comforts which trap into narcissism – another word often used by Pope Francis.”

The Catholic primate Archbishop Eamon Martin also spoke at a Holy Thursday Chrism Mass yesterday about the challenges that face Christians in today’s world, in particular, in dealing with the unpopularity that faces the modern Christian world.

Speaking in Armagh, Dr. Eamon Martin said “sometimes daring to witness openly to our sincerely held Christian convictions can bring upon us ridicule, condemnation or even persecution”.

He continued to say how he was “thinking, for example, about our strong beliefs in the sacredness of human life from the first moment of conception until the moment of natural death; our Church’s understanding of marriage and the family; our Catholic social teaching about the fair distribution of goods, care for creation and concern for the weakest and most vulnerable.”

“The world in which we minister is inclined to shun moral absolutes, or any talk of God’s law and the natural order of things,” he said.