CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 October 2018

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Pope reads riot act to the Curia again

VATICAN (SE): For the third time since he ascended to the Chair of Peter, Pope Francis has read the riot act to Vatican officials in his Christmas message to the Roman Curia on December 21.
 
Although officially listed as an exchange of Christmas greetings, as well as an opportunity for the pope to thank staff for the work they have done during the year, Pope Francis moved away from the customary format of reviewing  the previous 12 months and outlining a few priorities for the upcoming year.
 
But at his greeting forum for the Christmas which has just passed, Pope Francis opened the batting for the day by quoting Archbishop Xavier de Mérode, a 19th century bishop from Belgium, as once saying, “Reforming Rome is like cleaning the Sphinx with a toothbrush.”
 
But it also appears that in addition to lacking fidelity, the Curia does not have much of a sense of humour either, as the pope failed to raise even a chuckle with the quip.
 
Back in 2014, Pope Francis broke the buddy-buddy tradition of the Christmas gathering when he delivered a stinging tongue lashing to the Curia, listing off what he called the spiritual diseases that he said marred the work it was supposed to be doing (Sunday Examiner, 11 January 2015).
 
Again, at the same event in 2016, he blasted what he termed malicious opposition to his plans for reform.
 
However, he seems not to have judged the 2014 riot act as particularly effective, returning to the same topic in his message of Christmas cheer this year by berating the traitors within the Roman Curia, whom he accused of having an “unbalanced and debased mindset of plots and small cliques.”
 
He described the function of the Curia as one that wells up and flows out from the catholicity of the Petrine ministry, adding that if it is closed in on itself, it self-destructs.
 
“The Church, is by her very nature projected ad extra and only to the extent that she remains linked to the Petrine ministry, the service of God’s word and the preaching of the gospel (is achieved),” he said.
 
While leaving it up to individuals to figure out who he was talking about, he stated, “Here let me allude to another danger: those who betray the trust put in them and profiteer from the Church’s motherhood.”
 
He described them as people who are carefully selected to give a greater vigour to the body and to the reform, but failing to understand the lofty nature of their responsibility, let themselves be corrupted by ambition or vainglory.
 
Pope Francis then went on to complain that some Vatican officials declare themselves martyrs when they are judged to have reached their use by date and are quietly put aside.
 
“When they are quietly sidelined, (they) wrongly declare themselves martyrs of the system,” he said, while explaining that rather they should acknowledge their own failings.
 
But since it was Christmas and a time to be merry, the pope did not name names or single out any particular personalities for criticism.
 
However, even the most casual of Vatican-watchers knows who the self-declared martyrs to the system are.
 
Gerhard Cardinal Müller, until recently the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and both Libero Milone, the former auditor general of Vatican financial affairs; and Guilio Mattietti, who used to be director of the Institute for the Works of Religion, better known as the Vatican Bank; have all been fired recently and make no bones about telling the world they don’t like it.
 
During his Christmas chat with the members of the Curia, Pope Francis described their responsibility as being to serve the ministry of the pope, which calls them to a closeness with the person of the pope, which needs a special, interior trust in him.
 
“I began our meeting by speaking of Christmas as the feast of faith. I would like to conclude, though, by pointing out that Christmas reminds us that a faith that does not trouble us is a troubled faith,” Pope Francis said.
 
“A faith that does not make us grow is a faith that needs to grow. A faith that does not raise questions is a faith that has to be questioned. A faith that does not rouse us, is a faith that needs to be roused.
 
“A faith that does not shake us is a faith that needs to be shaken. Indeed, a faith which is only intellectual or lukewarm is only a notion of faith. It can become real once it touches our heart, our soul, our spirit and our whole being.”
 
He concluded by saying that once the faith allows God to be born and reborn in the manger of our heart, then we can allow the star of Bethlehem to guide us to the place where the Son of God lies, not among kings and riches, but among the poor and humble.
 
He then signed off with the usual Christmas greeting and asked all present to pray for him.
 
But in the age old custom of the season, he also left a couple of gifts—two books to be added to the recommended reading list.
 
One is entitled, I want to see God, and the second, The feast of forgiveness.

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