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Pope Francis to Vatican leaders: You are my antennae

Pope Francis - Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia

CLAUDIO PERI / AFP

I.Media - published on 12/21/17

Says they must transmit the word and will of Peter, but also relay to him the questions and concerns of the people
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Today, Pope Francis received the heads and chief officials of the various Vatican departments, called dicasteries, of the Roman Curia for a traditional Christmas address. This year, the pope asked them to be “antennas” in the service of Peter’s Successor, and invited them to turn their focus outwards, to the world, rather than being closed in on themselves.

In a solemn atmosphere, facing the prelates sitting along the walls, the pope acknowledged that reforming the Curia requires “patience, attention and delicacy” because it is an “ancient, complex and venerable” institution. Reforming it is like “cleaning the sphinx of Egypt with a toothbrush,” said the pope, quoting a 19th-century Belgian papal statesman.

The traitors and the saints

In particular, the pontiff severely criticized those who “betray trust” and “those who profit from the maternity of the Church”— that is to say, those appointed to enact the reform and who let themselves be “corrupted by ambition.”

“When they are delicately removed,” he pointed out, “they erroneously declare themselves martyrs of the system, of a ‘non-informed pope,’ of the ‘old guard’ … instead of reciting the mea culpa.”

This seems to be an implicit but transparent allusion to Sergio Milone, former Vatican Auditor General, who claimed there was a plot against him after his dismissal last June.

There are others, the pope said, who are being given “plenty of time to return to the right path, in the hope that they will find in the Church’s patience an opportunity to convert, and not to make a profit off of it.”

The pope also criticized the “small circles” guided by a “logic of plots,” which are a “cancer.” Those who fall into this situation, the pope warned, “lose the joy of the Gospel, the joy of communicating Christ.”

But this should not make us forget, stressed the pontiff, the labor of so many people who work with “fidelity, competence, devotion, and also holiness.” These are careful words, that come after the unrest aroused by his Christmas message of previous years—especially in 2015, when the pope talked of a list of spiritual diseases we must guard against.

The government of the Catholic Church, the Bishop of Rome continued, can not be shut up in “self-absorbtion.” On the contrary, it must be universal, serving the Word in the world. The Curia, an instrument of salvation, must therefore have a “diaconal attitude”—that is to say, it must be aware that it is at the service of the whole Church.

The “antennae” of the pope

The dicasteries, the Successor of Peter reminded his listeners, act in the name and with the authority of the pope. They must therefore be “sensitive antennae” that transmit “faithfully” the word and the will of the pontiff, but these antennae must also be receivers of the “questions, requests, cries, joys and tears” of the Church to transmit them to the pope.

Thus, the dicasteries must be both the mouth and the ears of the Supreme Pontiff, organs which also allow the Church to maintain equilibrium. This role of two-way communication strenthens the entire Church, he said, as “communion with Peter strengthens and invigorates communion among the members.”

The Argentine pope then returned to speak of the various external missions of the Holy See. The first mission, he said, is diplomatic: to be a “builder of bridges.” This work’s key characteristic is to be “free from any mundane or material interest.” The pope cited the recent creation of a third section in the Secretariat of State, instituted to offer “attention and proximity” to the staff of the nunciatures, where priests are both “pastors and diplomats.”

The inestimable wealth of the Eastern Churches

A second external role of the Curia is to help the pastors of the different dioceses of the world. Thus, it should not only have as “point of reference” the Bishop of Rome, but all the bishops of the world. This collaboration must be based on trust, “never on superiority or an adversarial relationship.”

The Curia must also cultivate the union with the Eastern Churches, which are “an inestimable wealth,” especially due to their faithful who “purify the Church” by accepting martyrdom. The pope stressed his respect for the autonomy of these Churches but said he wanted to revise the “delicate” question of the election process of their bishops, “which must respect, on one hand, the autonomy of the Eastern Churches, and at the same time, the spirit of evangelical responsibility and the desire to strengthen more and more the their unity with the Catholic Church.”

Lastly, the Roman Curia must play a role in the unity of Christians. Ecumenical dialogue is an “irreversible path forward, and not in reverse,” insisted the pontiff. With other religions, dialogue must also be carried out based on “duty of [maintaining] identity, the courage of otherness, and sincerity of intentions.”

A faith that puts you in crisis

In concluding his speech of about 30 minutes, Pope Francis called for a faith that is not only “intellectual or lukewarm.”

“A faith that does not put us in crisis, is a faith in crisis,” he insisted. As he did last year, the pope gave those present books on spiritual topics: the Italian translation of Je veux voir Dieu (“I want to see God”), by French Carmelite Blessed Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, and The Feast of Forgiveness, a work published by the Apostolic Penitentiary.

In his introductory address, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, said that the government of the Church must be an “eternal Cenacle.”

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Pope Francis
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