654 Once we strip ourselves of our robes, prerogatives, positions and titles, all of us are lepers
Day 654 Thursday, December 30, 2021
Once we strip ourselves of our robes, prerogatives, positions and titles, all of us are lepers in need of healing
Pope gives "arrogant" Vatican aides another lump of coal this Christmas
In annual holiday address, Pope Francis lectures officials of the Roman Curia on how to "follow the path of humility"
Pope Francis brought together his top Vatican aides this week for an annual late December appointment that he described as "a way to express (their) fraternity 'out loud' through the exchange of Christmas greetings".
But this year's holiday gathering of mostly bishops and cardinals was actually a chance for the Jesuit pope to once again dole out some good old-fashioned fraternal correction. In a forcefully delivered address on Thursday that lasted just over 30 minutes, he repeated -- though in a slightly more subtle way and often using the first-person plural -- warnings that he's issued in previous years against such things as pride, rigidity, factions and clericalism.
"If we had to express the entire meaning of Christmas in a word, it strikes me that humility is the one most useful," Francis told the Roman Curia officials. He lamented that "our times seem to have either forgotten humility or have relegated it to a form of moralism".
And, evidently, he believes that's also happening inside the Vatican's anachronistic 16th century bureaucracy, which he's spent his entire pontificate trying to overhaul and reform."
Christmas is the time when each of us needs to find the courage to take off our armor, discard the trappings of our roles, our social position... and adopt the humility of Naaman," he said.The reference was to the Syrian general in the Old Testament who was healed of leprosy, but only after he stooped to consulting a Jewish slave girl and then humbly followed the prophet Elisha's instructions to simply disrobe and bathe in the Jordan River.
Once we strip ourselves of our robes, prerogatives, positions and titles, all of us are lepers in need of healing," the pope said before scores of cardinals and other officials.
Their "eminences", all dressed in black cassocks and red skull caps and sashes, sat motionless as he lectured them.Francis once again warned his aides against falling prey to "spiritual worldliness". "Unlike all other temptations, (it) is hard to unmask, for it is concealed by everything that usually reassures us: our role, the liturgy, doctrine and religious devotion," he told them.
He then offered a quote from his blueprint for Church reform, the 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, condemning "the vainglory of those who are content to have a modicum of power" and act "like spiritual masters and pastoral experts who give instructions from on high" (EG, 96).
The 85-year-old pope told the curia officials that, instead, it is important to learn how "to inhabit our humanity" and be humble enough not to be ashamed of our frailty."We all know the opposite of humility is arrogance," he said, though the Vatican translated superbia (the Italian word he actually used) as "pride"."All the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble,"
Francis then reminded his aides with a quote from Malachi, another Old Testament prophet. Arrogant, rigid and fearful"Malachi also tells us that those who live by pride [or arrogance] will find themselves deprived of the most important things in life: roots and branches," he continued.
"The humble are those who are concerned not simply with the past but also with the future, since they know how to look ahead, to spread their branches, remembering the past with gratitude," the pope said."The proud, on the other hand, simply repeat, grow rigid and enclose themselves in that repetition, feeling certain about what they know and fearful of anything new because they cannot control it," he added.
The pope's choice of such words and images must be seen in the context of his ambitious project to implement something he's defined as "synodality" within the Church's daily life and governance. This will entail a "healthy decentralization", as he notes in Evangelii gaudium, and that will likely result in Roman Curia offices being stripped of some (or a lot) the power they have accumulated and wielded over the centuries. Francis told the officials on Thursday that the "synodal process" that was launched last October will demand humility -- especially on the part of clerics -- in order to encounter and truly listen to everyone (i.e. the laity).
"The clericalism that, like a perverse temptation, spreads daily among us, makes us always think of a God who speaks only to some, while the others must only listen and obey," he told them. That mentality goes completely against the logic of synodality and Francis is obviously aware that if it is not uprooted from the Roman Curia, the success of the fledgling synodal process could be in jeopardy.
The road to a more humble CuriaSo he took the three words he used at the opening of the synodal assembly in October -- participation, communion and mission-- and said they were the "three requirements" for bringing about greater humility in the Vatican's central bureaucracy.
He said participation means Curia offices should adopt "a style of co-responsibility" that will ensure that even low-level employees have "an active role to play" and won't just be implementing plans or programs devised by higher-ups." Authority becomes service when it shares, involves and helps people to grow," the pope insisted.
He said communion can be created in the Vatican workplace only if "we put Christ back at the center" and find "the ability to pray together, listen to God's word together and construct relationships that transcend work". Unless this happens, he warned, there will continue to be "divisions, factions and enemies", and people will refuse to work with others "who do not think" as they do.
Francis repeated his longstanding refrain that "diversity is a gift of the Holy Spirit" and warned that reducing communion to "a synonym for uniformity" will only weaken and stifle "the life-giving power of the Spirit in our midst". Those are important, if difficult words to hear in a bureaucracy that has long been centralized and centralizing.
Finally, Francis said embracing the mission is the only thing that will save people in the Roman Curia (and the Church) from "turning in on themselves" and being "open only to the limited horizons of their own immanence and interests".
"Mission always involves passion for the poor," he said. But not just those in material poverty, because "those who hunger from bread and those who hunger from meaning are equally poor".
The pope urged the Curia officials to "be evangelized by the humility of Christmas and the manger" and by the humility of Jesus the Master who washes his disciples' feet. Only by serving, and by seeing our work as service, can we truly be helpful to everyone. We are here -- I myself before anyone else -- to learn how to kneel and adore the Lord in his humility, not other lords in their empty trappings," he said."Humility is the great condition for faith, the spiritual life and holiness," the Jesuit pope declared."This," he said, "is the lesson of Christmas."
Follow me on Twitter @robinrome
by Robert Mickens
Read more at: https://international.la-croix.com/news/letter-from-rome/pope-gives-arrogant-vatican-aides-another-lump-of-coal-this-christmas/15419