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Monday, December 22, 2014

Francis: a Curia that is outdated, sclerotic or indifferent to others is an ailing body

Vatican City, 22 December 2014 (VIS) – This morning in the Clementine Hall the Holy Father held his annual meeting with the Roman Curia to exchange Christmas greetings with the members of its component dicasteries, councils, offices, tribunals and commissions. “It is good to think of the Roman Curia as a small model of the Church, that is, a body that seeks, seriously and on a daily basis, to be more alive, healthier, more harmonious and more united in itself and with Christ”.

“The Curia is always required to better itself and to grow in communion, sanctity and wisdom to fully accomplish its mission. However, like any body, it is exposed to sickness, malfunction and infirmity. … I would like to mention some of these illnesses that we encounter most frequently in our life in the Curia. They are illnesses and temptations that weaken our service to the Lord”, continued the Pontiff, who after inviting all those present to an examination of conscience to prepare themselves for Christmas, listed the most common Curial ailments:

The first is “the sickness of considering oneself 'immortal', 'immune' or 'indispensable', neglecting the necessary and habitual controls. A Curia that is not self-critical, that does not stay up-to-date, that does not seek to better itself, is an ailing body. … It is the sickness of the rich fool who thinks he will live for all eternity, and of those who transform themselves into masters and believe themselves superior to others, rather than at their service”.

The second is “'Martha-ism', or excessive industriousness; the sickness of those who immerse themselves in work, inevitably neglecting 'the better part' of sitting at Jesus' feet. Therefore, Jesus required his disciples to rest a little, as neglecting the necessary rest leads to stress and agitation. Rest, once one who has brought his or her mission to a close, is a necessary duty and must be taken seriously: in spending a little time with relatives and respecting the holidays as a time for spiritual and physical replenishment, it is necessary to learn the teaching of Ecclesiastes, that 'there is a time for everything'”.

Then there is “the sickness of mental and spiritual hardening: that of those who, along the way, lose their inner serenity, vivacity and boldness and conceal themselves behind paper, becoming working machines rather than men of God. … It is dangerous to lose the human sensibility necessary to be able to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice! It is the sickness of those who lose those sentiments that were present in Jesus Christ”.

“The ailment of excessive planning and functionalism: this is when the apostle plans everything in detail and believes that, by perfect planning things effectively progress, thus becoming a sort of accountant. … One falls prey to this sickness because it is easier and more convenient to settle into static and unchanging positions. Indeed, the Church shows herself to be faithful to the Holy Spirit to the extent that she does not seek to regulate or domesticate it. The Spirit is freshness, imagination and innovation”.

The “sickness of poor coordination develops when the communion between members is lost, and the body loses its harmonious functionality and its temperance, becoming an orchestra of cacophony because the members do not collaborate and do not work with a spirit of communion or as a team”.

“Spiritual Alzheimer's disease, or rather forgetfulness of the history of Salvation, of the personal history with the Lord, of the 'first love': this is a progressive decline of spiritual faculties, that over a period of time causes serious handicaps, making one incapable of carrying out certain activities autonomously, living in a state of absolute dependence on one's own often imaginary views. We see this is those who have lost their recollection of their encounter with the Lord … in those who build walls around themselves and who increasingly transform into slaves to the idols they have sculpted with their own hands”.

“The ailment of rivalry and vainglory: when appearances, the colour of one's robes, insignia and honours become the most important aim in life. … It is the disorder that leads us to become false men and women, living a false 'mysticism' and a false 'quietism'”.

Then there is “existential schizophrenia: the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that cannot be filled by degrees or academic honours. This ailment particularly afflicts those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality and with real people. They create a parallel world of their own, where they set aside everything they teach with severity to others and live a hidden, often dissolute life”.

The sickness of “chatter, grumbling and gossip: this is a serious illness that begins simply, often just in the form of having a chat, and takes people over, turning them into sowers of discord, like Satan, and in many cases cold-blooded murderers of the reputations of their colleagues and brethren. It is the sickness of the cowardly who, not having the courage to speak directly to the people involved, instead speak behind their backs”.

“The sickness of deifying leaders is typical of those who court their superiors, with the hope of receiving their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, honouring people rather than God. They are people who experience service thinking only of what they might obtain and not of what they should give. They are mean, unhappy and inspired only by their fatal selfishness”.

“The disease of indifference towards others arises when each person thinks only of himself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of personal relationships. When the most expert does not put his knowledge to the service of less expert colleagues; when out of jealousy … one experiences joy in seeing another person instead of lifting him up or encouraging him”.

“The illness of the funereal face: or rather, that of the gruff and the grim, those who believe that in order to be serious it is necessary to paint their faces with melancholy and severity, and to treat others – especially those they consider inferior – with rigidity, hardness and arrogance. In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity”.

“The disease of accumulation: when the apostle seeks to fill an existential emptiness of the heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but simply to feel secure. … Accumulation only burdens and inexorably slows down our progress”.

“The ailment of closed circles: when belonging to a group becomes stronger than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, to Christ Himself. This sickness too may start from good intentions but, as time passes, enslaves members and becomes a 'cancer' that threatens the harmony of the Body and causes a great deal of harm – scandals – especially to our littlest brothers”.

Then, there is the “disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism: when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into goods to obtain worldly profits or more power. This is the disease of those who seek insatiably to multiply their power and are therefore capable of slandering, defaming and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally in order to brag and to show they are more capable than others”.

After listing these ailments, Pope Francis continued, “We are therefore required, at this Christmas time and in all the time of our service and our existence – to live 'speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love'”.

“I once read that priests are like aeroplanes: they only make the news when they crash, but there are many that fly. Many criticise them and few pray for them”, he concluded. “It is a very nice phrase, but also very true, as it expresses the importance and the delicacy of our priestly service, and how much harm just one priest who falls may cause to the whole body of the Church”.

To employees of the Holy See: “Transform this Holy Nativity into an opportunity to heal”

Vatican City, 22 December 2014 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis met with employees of the Holy See, whom he thanked fervently for their work during the last year. He dedicated some special words to the Italians present, as “during all the history of the Church and the Roman Curia they have worked regularly with a generous and faithful spirit, placing at the service of the Holy See and Peter's Successor their unique laboriousness and filial devotion, offering the Church great Saints, Popes, martyrs, missionaries and artists that no passing cloud in history will be able to obscure”. He also thanked workers from other countries, “who generously work in the Curia, far from their homelands and their families, representing for the Curia the face of the Church's 'Catholicity'”.

The Pope encouraged those present to consider a text that he had mentioned in his discourse to the Roman Curia shortly beforehand, treating it as a “starting point for a fruitful examination of conscience in preparation for the Holy Nativity and the New Year. He exhorted them to receive the Sacrament of Confession “with a docile heart, to receive the mercy of the Lord, who knocks on the door of our heart, in the joy of the family”.

Francis emphasised the word “care” and explained that “caring means manifesting diligent and thoughtful interest, that directs our heart and our activities towards someone or something; it means looking with attention to those who are in need of care without thinking of anything else; it means accepting to give or receive care”. To “transform this Holy Nativity into a true opportunity to heal every wound and every lack”, he urged those present to take care of their spiritual life, their relationship with God, and to look after their family life and relationships with others. This means caring about one's way of speaking, purifying language of offensive words; healing the wounds of the heart with the oil of forgiveness; caring for one's work, performing it with enthusiasm, humility and passion; curing oneself of envy, lust, hatred and the negative feelings that devour our inner peace and transform us into destroyed and destructive people; curing oneself of the rancour that leads us to revenge and the idleness that leads to existential euthanasia. Caring for the poorest, the elderly, the sick, the hungry, the homeless and foreigners, and making sure that the Holy Nativity never becomes a celebration of commercial consumerism, appearances and pointless gifts, or superfluous waste, but rather of the joy of welcoming the Lord into the creche of the heart”.

“Imagine how our world would change if each one of us began straight away”, he remarked. “This is the true Nativity: the feast of the poverty of the God Who annihilated Himself, assuming the nature of a slave; of God Who served at the table; of God Who hid Himself from the intelligent and the wise and instead revealed Himself to the smallest, the simple and the poor. It is above all the feast of Peace brought to earth by the baby Jesus, … the peace the Angels sang”. He continued, “Peace needs our enthusiasm, our care, to warm our frozen hearts, to encourage distrusting souls and to brighten jaded eyes with the light of Jesus' face”.

The Pope concluded by asking forgiveness for his shortcomings, and those of his colleagues, and also for the various scandals “that do a great deal of damage”, he commented. “Forgive me and, please, pray for me”.

Angelus: at Christmas, Jesus calls out again to the heart of every Christian

Vatican City, 21 December 2014 (VIS) – On the fourth and final Sunday of Advent, with Christmas just around the corner, the Gospel narrates the Angel's annunciation to Mary and the Virgin's “yes” that made possible the Incarnation, the revelation of a mystery “enveloped in silence for eternity”. Before this morning's Angelus prayer, Pope Francis addressed the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, focusing on two essential aspects of Mary's attitude as a model to prepare for Christmas.

The first is her faith, which consists of listening to the Word of God in order to surrender herself entirely to it, with full willingness of both mind and heart. “In her 'yes', full of faith, Mary does not know which road she will have to embark upon, how much pain she will have to suffer, what risks she will run. But she is aware that it is the Lord Who asks her to entrust herself entirely to Him, and she surrenders herself to His love. This is Mary's faith”.

“Another aspect is the capacity of the Mother of Christ to recognise the time of God. Mary teaches us to seize the favourable moment in which Jesus passes into our life and asks for a prompt and generous response”.

“And Jesus passes”, added the Pope, “because the mystery of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, which historically took place more than two thousand years ago, occurs as a spiritual event on the 'today' of the Liturgy. The Word, that finds a home in the virginal womb of Mary, during the celebration of the Nativity calls out to the heart of every Christian; it passes, and knocks on the door. Each one of us is called to answer, like Mary, with a personal and sincere 'yes', placing ourselves entirely at the disposal of God and His mercy, His love”.

“How many times does Jesus pass into our lives!”, he exclaimed. “And how many times he sends us an angel, and how often we do not realise, because we are too preoccupied, immersed in our thoughts, in our affairs and even, these days, in our preparations for Christmas, to realise that He passes and knocks at the door of our heart, asking for welcome, asking for a 'yes', like that of Mary”.

“A saint once said, 'I am afraid that the Lord will pass'. Do you know why he was afraid? He was afraid he would not welcome Him, that he would let Him pass by. When we feel in our heart, 'I would like to be a better person', “I feel remorse for doing that”, it is the Lord Who is calling. He makes you feel this: the wish to be better, the wish to stay closer to others and to God. If you feel this, then stop. It is the Lord Who is there! And pray, perhaps go to Confession, to clean up a little … this does you good. But keep in mind: if you feel this desire to improve, it is He Who is calling: do not let Him pass by”.

Francis also recalled, in the mystery of the Nativity, the silent presence of Joseph and emphasised the example that he and Mary offer as an invitation to receive with total openness the Lord Jesus, “who for love made Himself into our brother, and came to bring light to the world”, as the angels proclaimed to the shepherds: 'on earth peace, good will toward men'”.

“The precious gift of Christmas is peace”, he concluded. “Christ, Who is our true peace, calls to our hearts to give us peace, the peace of the soul. Let us open the doors to Christ”.

The Pope receives the Community of Pope John XXIII and praises its generosity in helping people rise above material and moral degradation

Vatican City, 20 December 2014 (VIS) – Today in the Paul VI Hall the Holy Father received 7,500 members of the Community of John Paul XXIII, founded by the Italian priest Oreste Benzi in 1968. The association, currently present in 34 countries, is concerned with situations of marginalisation and poverty and promotes the non-violent removal of the root causes. It follows the principle of sharing of life in a number of contexts: minors and young people in difficult conditions, the disabled, detainees, itinerant communities, drug users, alcoholics, those without fixed abode, the elderly, the sick, mothers with problems and women forced into prostitution.

During the audience, various members of the Community narrated to the Pope their experiences, which as Francis said, spoke of “slavery and liberation, of the selfishness of those who imagine they can build up their lives by exploiting others and taking advantage of the generosity of those who help others to rise up from material and moral degradation. They are experiences that shed light on the many forms of poverty that unfortunately afflict our world, and they reveal the most dangerous misery of all, the cause of all others: distance from God, the presumption of being able to do without Him. This is the blind misery of those who believe that the aim of their existence is material wealth, the pursuit of power and pleasure, and the enslavement of the lives of others to these objectives”.

“Yes, my friends, it is the presence of the Lord that makes the difference between the freedom of good and the slavery of evil … it broadens horizons … and gives us the strength necessary to overcome difficulties and obstacles. … Faith, indeed, moves the mountains of indifference and apathy, of disinterest and sterile self-centredness. … Faith opens the doors of charity … giving us the courage to act according to the example of the Good Samaritan. Fr. Oresti Benzi, the founder of your association, understood this well. His love for the least and for the poor, for the excluded and the abandoned, was rooted in his love for Jesus crucified, Who made Himself poor for us. … From the mission of involving adolescents and encouraging their interest in the figure of Jesus, there was born the idea of organising for them a vital and radical encounter with Him as a hero and friend, through testimonies of life, fully demonstrating the Christian message, but in a joyful or even joking fashion”.

“In this way your community was born, now present in 34 countries with its family-houses, its social and educational cooperatives, its houses of prayer, services for accompanying difficult motherhood and other initiatives”, continued the Pope. “Providence has enabled you to grow, demonstrating the vitality of the charism of your Founder, who liked to say that “to get onto your feet, you need to kneel first”.

Pope Francis concluded by inviting those present to be attentive to their spiritual formation, and to partake frequently of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, as “it fills the heart with the love for God that is the wellspring of charity towards our brothers and sisters”.


On Saturday, 20 December, the Holy Father received in audience:

- His Royal Highness Jaime Bernardo, Prince of Bourbon de Parme, ambassador of the Netherlands to the Holy See, presenting his letters of credence;

- Clelio Galassi, ambassador of the Republic of San Marino to the Holy See, presenting his letters of credence;

- Eduardo Felix Valdes, ambassador of the Republic of Argentina to the Holy See, presenting his letters of credence.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 22 December 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has

- appointed Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, auxiliary of the archdiocese of Indianapolis, U.S.A., as bishop of Burlington (area 23,651, population 651,000, Catholics 123,700, priests 133, permanent deacons 43, religious 149), U.S.A.

- appointed Bishop Benjamin Ndiaye of Kaolack, Senegal, as archbishop of Dakar (area 4,803, population 3,677,000, Catholics 455,000, priests 168, religious 645), Senegal. He succeeds Cardinal Theodore-Adrien Sarr, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the diocese of Basel, Switzerland, presented by Bishop Martin Gachter upon reaching the age limit.

- erected the new diocese of Kuzhithurai (area 915, population 855,485, Catholics 264,222, priests 131, religious 269) India, with territory taken from the diocese of Kottar, making it a suffragan of the metropolitan church of Madurai. He appointed Fr. Jerome Dhas Varuvel, S.D.B., as first bishop of the new diocese. The bishop-elect was born in Paduvoor, India in 1951, gave his perpetual vows in 1981, and was ordained a priest in 1985. He holds a bachelor's degree in economics and theology, and a licentiate in education from the Pontifical Salesian University, Rome, and has served in a number of roles, including vice rector of the novitiate in Vellakinar, rector of the pre-novitiate in Tirupattur and Maiyam, dean of the Salesian student body in Trichy, parish priest and rector of the con-Cathedral of Madras-Mylapore, provincial counsellor, director of Kalvi Solai in Tirupattur and in Ennore, and director of Mount Don Bosco in Thalavadi. He is currently master of novices in Yeallagiri Hills, Vellore.

On Saturday, 20 December, the Holy Father appointed:

- Bishop Jose Guadalupe Torres Campos of Gomez Palacio, Mexico, as bishop of Ciudad Juarez (area 29,639, population 2,727,000, Catholics 2,318,000, priests 116, permanent deacons 19, religious 206), Mexico. He succeeds Bishop Renato Ascencio Leon, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue as camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church;

- Archbishop Giampiero Gloder, apostolic nuncio and president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, as vice camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church.
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