“We are all lepers […] who need to be healed,” Pope Francis told the Roman Curia in his Christmas message delivered on December 23, 2021 at the Vatican. Urging his administration to follow the “path of humility,” the pontiff once again warned against the “perverse temptation” of clericalism “that insinuates itself daily among us.
As he does every year, the Pope received the heads of the Curia—cardinals, heads of dicasteries and heads of offices—to present his Christmas greetings. In a lengthy address to them in the Hall of Blessings of the Apostolic Palace, the pontiff preached humility, a value carried by Christmas and which, according to him, our era “seems to have forgotten” or “relegated to a form of moralism.”
The Bishop of Rome warned his Curia against the “dangerous temptation […] of spiritual worldliness,” a disease he described as “difficult to unmask” because “it is covered by what usually reassures us: our office, the liturgy, doctrine, religiosity.” Humility, he said, consists instead in “understanding that we should not be ashamed of our fragility.”
Roots and buds
“The desire to reassure oneself is the most perverse fruit of spiritual worldliness,” he insisted, a “leprosy” that makes one live “in appearance” and isolates one in illness. To combat the sterility of pride, the Pope called for the defense of the “roots” of Tradition and the “buds” of the new.
Tradition is that “vital link with the past from which we draw sap for the present,” Pope Francis said. For memory not to be a “prison of the past,” it must nevertheless generate the future, he said, declaring that “the humble person accepts to be questioned, he opens himself to the new.
The synodal conversion of the Curia
The pontiff then placed humility at the heart of the current synodal process—the Synod on Synodality, which began on October 17—emphasizing that “without humility we cannot meet our neighbor, the brother and sister who live next to us.” The Synod is “the experience of feeling that we are all members of a greater people: the People of God,” he said, calling on the Curia to convert to the “synodal style.”
“The Curia is not only a logistical and bureaucratic instrument,” the 266th Pope lamented, but “the first organism called to witness. He therefore pleaded for “a different style of work, of collaboration, of communion” that also passes through the “path of humility.”
Participation, communion and mission
Pope Francis went on to demand greater sobriety from his administration, greater transparency—”without favoritism or cronyism”—and a more shared sense of responsibility, thanking those who show “creativity” in their work at the Vatican. He noted that creativity usually appears “where room is left and found for everyone, even for those who, hierarchically, seem to occupy a marginal position.”
The pontiff also called for greater communion, asking the Curia to “pray together” but also to “recognize the diversity that inhabits us as a gift.” By confusing communion with uniformity, the Catholic Church weakens itself and silences “the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit,” he insisted.
Finally, he criticized the “terrible corruption under the guise of goodness” that wins over those who “turn inward,” and encouraged the cultivation of a “missionary heart” turned toward the poor.