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Pope Francis to the Roman Curia: “It isn’t wrinkles we need to worry about in the Church, but blemishes!”

The audience for the traditional Christmas greetings. “The reform – the Pope pointed out -will be effective only if it is carried out with men and women who are renewed and not simply new." Twelve guiding principles: individual responsibility, pastoral concern, missionary spirit, clear organization, improved functioning, modernization, sobriety, subsidiarity, synodality, Catholicity, professionalism, gradualism. No to the promoveatur ut amoveatur: it’s “a cancer.” Enhanced role for women and lay people and their integration into roles of leadership in the Dicasteries.

The reform of the Curia is a “process of growth and above all of conversion.” It is not a “facelift” to embellish its aging body”, for “it isn’t wrinkles we need to worry about in the Church, but blemishes!” Pope Francis said speaking to the Roman Curia in the audience for the traditional Christmas greetings today in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic building. The reform of the Curia, “a sign of life, of a Church that advances on her pilgrim way”, was at the heart of the Pope’s long, meaningful speech. It is no coincidence that in his opening words Francis spoke of the “gentle yet overpowering light of the divine countenance of the Christ Child”, of Christmas “the overturning of worldly logic, of the mentality of power and might, the thinking of the Pharisees and those who see things only in terms of causality or determinism.” At the end of his address the Pope gave his personal Christmas gift to each of those present: a copy of the book by Jesuit Father Claudio Acquaviva, fifth Superior General of the Order, (1543-1615), “Curing the Illnesses of the Soul,” in the Italian translation by Fr Giuliano Raffo.

“The reform will be effective only if it is carried out with men and women who are renewed and not simply new. We cannot be content simply with changing personnel, but need to encourage spiritual, human and professional renewal among the members of the Curia”, the Pope said.

“The reform of the Curia is in no way implemented with a change of persons – something that certainly is happening and will continue to happen – but with a conversion in person. Without a change of mentality, efforts at practical improvement will be in vain”, the Pope said, acknowledging “difficulties” and “resistance.” “There can be cases of open resistance, often born of goodwill and sincere dialogue”; “cases of hidden resistance, born of fearful or hardened hearts content with the empty rhetoric of a complacent spiritual reform, on the part of those who say they are ready for change, but want everything to remain as it is”; “cases of malicious resistance, which spring up in misguided minds and come to the fore when the devil inspires ill intention”, and “hides behind words of self-justification and often accusation; it takes refuge in traditions, appearances, formalities, in the familiar, or else in a desire to make everything personal, failing to distinguish between the act, the actor, and the action.”

Francis then listed twelve “guiding principles of the reform”: individual responsibility, pastoral concern, missionary spirit, clear organization, improved functioning, modernization, sobriety, subsidiarity, synodality, Catholicity, professionalism, gradualism.

While on the one side there is “the importance of individual conversion, without which all structural change would prove useless”, on the other “the efforts of all who work in the Curia must be inspired by pastoral concern and a spirituality of service and communion, for this is the antidote to all the venoms of vain ambition and illusory rivalry.”

“What is called for is a simplification and streamlining of the Curia”, Francis underlined.

It’s the “essential sobriety needed for a proper and authentic witness”, that involves “the reordering of areas of competence specific to the various Dicasteries; the eventual suppression of offices no longer responding to contingent needs”, along with “the integration into Dicasteries or the reduction of Commissions, Accademies, Committees, etc.”

“A clearer organization of the offices of the Roman Curia” was needed, said the Pope, “on the basis of the principle that all Dicasteries are juridically equal,” just as “the eventual merging of two or more Dicasteries” serves “to give the latter greater importance (even externally)” and “contributes to improved functioning.”

In improved functioning “demands an ongoing review of roles, the relevance of areas of competence, and the responsibilities of the personnel, and consequently of the process of reassignment, hiring, interruption of work and also promotions”, Francis said, underlining “professional competence” along with the “continuing formation for the personnel.”

“Essential is the definitive abolition of the practice of promoveatur ut amoveatur”. “This is a cancer”, the Pope cautioned.

Finally, the Pope highlighted the importance of synodality in the work of the Curia and of Catholicism – meant as universality – of collaborators “that must be reflected in the hiring of personnel from throughout the world, of permanent deacons and lay faithful.” Finally, “of great importance” is “an enhanced role for women and lay people in the life of the Church and their integration into roles of leadership in the Dicasteries, with particular attention to multiculturalism.”

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