VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The people who work at the Vatican and
in the Roman Curia are supposed to be "sensitive antennas" that faithfully
transmit the desires of the pope and receive information from dioceses and
Eastern Catholic churches around the world, Pope Francis said.
Remembering that the Curia exists exclusively for the
service of the Gospel, the pope and the church is the only way to counter
"that imbalanced and degenerate logic of conspiracies or little cliques
that, despite all their justifications and good intentions, represent a
cancer," the pope said Dec. 21.
Holding his annual pre-Christmas meeting with top officials of
the Roman Curia and Vatican City State and with cardinals living in Rome, Pope
Francis said he wanted to build on his previous talks about the reform of the
Curia by focusing on its relationship to the world outside the Vatican walls.
His reflections, he said, were based on principles and
church laws governing the Curia, but also "on the personal vision I have
tried to share" as the process of reforming the Curia has unfolded.
The process began a month after he was elected in March 2013
and is ongoing, which brings to mind, he said, a saying attributed to a
19th-century Belgian cleric and Vatican statesman: "Carrying out reform in
Rome is like cleaning an Egyptian Sphinx with a toothbrush."
Still, he said, the process must continue for the good of
the Curia itself, the good of the church and, ultimately, the good of the
Pope Francis cited as a sign of the work left to be done the
danger posed by "traitors of the truth or profiteers of the church's
motherhood," meaning personnel hired to give their expertise to the
Vatican, but who "let themselves be corrupted by ambition or by vainglory
and, when they are delicately let go, erroneously declare themselves to be
martyrs of the system, of the 'uninformed pope' or of the 'old guard' rather
than reciting a 'mea culpa,'" in admitting their faults.
Repeatedly in his talk, Pope Francis spoke of "diaconal
primacy" or the primacy of service, which must characterize his ministry
and the work of all in the Curia in imitation of Jesus, who came to serve and
not be served.
The focus of the Curia, he said, must be on service and not
on self-preservation or maintaining areas of influence and power.
Quoting a third-century Christian treatise, Pope Francis
said the Curia, like a deacon, must be "the ears and the mouth of the
bishop, his heart and his soul."
Listening to the local churches and to the needs of the poor
comes first, he said. "I don't think it's an accident that the ear is the
organ for hearing, but also for balance."
Looking more closely at the church's relation with the world
outside itself, Pope Francis spoke about the new section he created in the
Vatican Secretariat of State to oversee the training, assigning and ministry of
Vatican nuncios and diplomats around the world.
Vatican diplomacy has no "mundane or material
interest," he said, but seeks only to build "bridges, peace and
dialogue among nations."
Pope Francis listed as diplomatic priorities "the
importance of safeguarding our common home from every destructive selfishness;
to affirm that wars bring only death and destruction; to draw from the past the
necessary lessons to help us live better in the present, solidly build a future
and safeguard it for new generations."
Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue also are essential
forms of outreach to the world, the pope said.
The search for Christian unity, he said, "is a journey,
but as my predecessors also repeated, it is a journey that is irreversible and
with no putting the brakes on."
"The Curia works in this area to promote encounters
with our brothers and sisters," Pope Francis said, "to untie the
knots of misunderstandings and hostility, to counter the prejudices and the
fear of the other that have prevented us from seeing the richness of and in
diversity and the depths of the mystery of Christ and of the church, which
remain greater than any human expression."
Pope Francis told the cardinals and other Curia officials
that the faith celebrated at Christmas must be a living, lively faith that
provokes conversion in all who call themselves believers.
"A faith that doesn't put us in crisis is a faith in
crisis," he said. "A faith that doesn't make us grow is a faith that
must grow; a faith that doesn't question us is a faith that must be questioned;
a faith that doesn't enliven us is a faith that must be enlivened; a faith that
doesn't shake us is a faith that must be shaken."
If faith does not provoke the faithful to change and grow,
the pope said, it really
is something that is simply lukewarm or just an idea.
Faith becomes real, he said, only when it "allows God
to be born or reborn in the manger of our hearts, when we let the star of
Bethlehem lead us to the place where the son of God lies, not among kings and
luxury, but among the poor and humble."