Pope Francis addresses members of the Roman Curia during the annual exchange of Christmas greetings Pope Francis addresses members of the Roman Curia during the annual exchange of Christmas greetings  

Pope to the Curia: changes are necessary to better serve humanity

During the traditional exchange of Christmas greetings, Pope Francis addresses the Roman Curia about the transformations taking place in the Vatican structures. He stresses the needs and aims of the new dicasteries, and says the Curia is changing in order to overcome inflexibility and fear, and to better announce the Gospel to a de-Christianized world.

By Alessandro De Carolis

In a changing world, the Roman Curia does not change for the sake of changing, in order to “follow fashions”, began the Pope. The Church lives development and growth from God's perspective. Even the Bible is "a journey marked by starting and starting again". One of our most recent saints, Cardinal Newman, speaking of "change", really meant "conversion", he said.

Challenge and inertia

Pope Francis was addressing his closest collaborators of the Roman Curia in the Clementine Hall in the Vatican for the exchange of Christmas greetings. In his discourse, he told them we are not just living in “a time of changes, but in a change of times”. It is healthy, he said, to allow ourselves “to be questioned by the challenges of the present time", with discernment and courage, rather than to let ourselves be seduced by the comfortable inertia that comes with leaving everything as it is:

“It often happens that we experience change simply by putting on new clothes, and then we stay the way we were before. I remember the enigmatic expression we read in a famous Italian novel: ‘If we want everything to remain as it is, then everything must change’”. (From “The Leopard”, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa)

Between novelty and memory

The Pope then turned his attention to the reform of the Roman Curia, which “never presumed to act as though nothing had existed before", but, on the contrary, intended "to enhance all the good that has been done in the complex history of the Curia".

“It is our duty to appreciate history in order to build a future that has solid foundations, that has roots and therefore can be fruitful. Appealing to memory does not mean anchoring oneself in self-preservation, but recalling the life and vitality of a path in continuous development. Memory is not static, it is dynamic. By its very nature it implies movement.”

Change in order to proclaim

Pope Francis went on to review several changes already made with the Roman Curia, like the creation of the Third Section of the Secretariat of State (the Section for the Diplomatic Staff of the Holy See) in 2017. He recalled changes in relations between the Roman Curia and particular Churches, and in the "structure of some dicasteries, including the one for Eastern Churches, and others for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, in particular with Judaism". Pope Francis said his predecessors, Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, had already noted how our world is no longer conscious of the Gospel, as it once was. This required the restructuring of historical Vatican departments or suggested the creation of new ones, he said.

The Pope referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, saying they were established at a time “when it was easier to distinguish between two fairly defined sides: a Christian world on one hand and a world yet to be evangelized on the other".

“Now this situation no longer exists. The people who have not yet heard the proclamation of the Gospel no longer live on non-Western continents only: they live everywhere, especially in the enormous urban concentrations that themselves require specific pastoral care. In large cities, we need other ‘maps’, other paradigms, to help us reposition our ways of thinking and our attitudes: we are not in Christian times, not anymore!”

The Gospel and digital culture

The impetus for a renewed proclamation of the Gospel was what inspired the restructuring of the Vatican departments, continued the Pope. In Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis already indicates how attitudes, style, timetables, and languages need to be transformed into "a suitable channel for the evangelization of the world today, rather than for self-preservation". The creation of the Dicastery for Communication, a reality that brings together nine previously separate entities of the Vatican media, responds to this need, said the Pope. The new dicastery is not merely a "coordination of groups", he said, but a of "harmonization" in order to "produce a better service offer" in a "highly digitized culture".

“The new culture, marked by convergence and multimedia, needs an adequate response from the Apostolic See in the field of communication. Today, compared to diversified services, the multimedia model prevails, and this indicates how to conceive, think about and implement them. All this implies, together with cultural change, an institutional and personal conversion to move from working in watertight compartments - which in the best cases had some coordination - to working intrinsically connected, in synergy.”

One structure, many services

The case of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development is similar. The new Dicastery was created to integrate the previously distinct work of the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, Cor Unum, and the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Health Care Workers, making it more coherent and unified.

“The Church is called to remind everyone that it is not only a question of social or migratory issues but of human beings, brothers and sisters who today are the symbol of all those who are discarded by the globalized society. It is called to testify that for God no one is a ‘foreigner’ or ‘excluded’. It is called to awaken consciences dormant in their indifference to the reality of the Mediterranean Sea which has become a cemetery for many, too many.”

Love conquers weariness

Among the "great challenges" and "necessary balances", what matters is that the Church and the Roman Curia, first and foremost, considers all humanity as "children of one Father". Pope Francis said he is aware of the difficulty in facing such great changes, and the need to take things gradually: we cannot ignore the effects of “human error”, he said. "Linked to this difficult historical process, there is always the temptation to turn back to the past (even using new formulations), because it is more reassuring, familiar, and certainly less confrontational”, he said.

“Here we must beware of being tempted to assume a position of rigidity. The rigidity that comes from fear of change, and ends up disseminating limitations and obstacles on the terrain of the common good, turning it into a minefield of incomprehension and hatred. Let us always remember that behind all rigidity lies some imbalance. Rigidity and imbalance feed each other in a vicious circle.”

The Pope left the last word to the late Milanese Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini who, before he died, said: "The Church is two hundred years behind the times. Why doesn’t it shake itself up? Are we afraid? Fear instead of courage? Yet, faith is the foundation of the Church. Faith, trust, courage. [...] Only love overcomes weariness".

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21 December 2019, 11:04