VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis cautioned Vatican administrators Saturday that their work can deteriorate into mediocrity, gossip and bureaucratic squabbling if they forget that theirs is a professional vocation of service to the church.
Francis made the comments in his Christmas address to the Vatican Curia, the bureaucracy that forms the central government of the 1.2 billion- strong Catholic Church. The speech was eagerly anticipated given that Francis was elected in March on a mandate to overhaul the antiquated and often dysfunctional Vatican administration.
Already, heads have started to roll: just last week, Francis reshuffled the advisory body of the powerful Congregation for Bishops, the office that vets all the world’s bishop nominations. He removed the archconservative American Cardinal Raymond Burke, a key figure in the U.S. culture wars on abortion and gay marriage, and also nixed the head of Italy’s bishops’ conference and another hard-line Italian, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, earlier axed as head of the Vatican office responsible for priests.
Francis has said he wants a Vatican Curia that is more responsive to the needs of local bishops, who have long complained of Rome’s slow or unhelpful interventions in their work caring for souls. Francis has said he wants the church as a whole to be less consumed with moralizing than showing mercy to the needy, wherever they are.
Francis thanked the cardinals, bishops and priests gathered in the Clementine Hall for the Christmas address for their work, diligence and creativity. Deviating from his prepared text, he said: “There are saints in the Curia!” But he also reminded them that Vatican officials must display professionalism, competence and holiness in their lives.
“When professionalism is lacking, there is a slow drift downwards toward mediocrity. Dossiers become full of trite and lifeless information and incapable of opening up lofty perspectives,” le said. “Then, too, when the attitude is no longer one of service to the particular churches and their bishops, the structure of the Curia turns into a ponderous, bureaucratic customs house, constantly inspecting and questioning, hindering the working of the Holy Spirit and the growth of God’s people.” Francis called for Vatican officials to exercise “conscientious objection to gossip.” “Let us all be conscientious objectors, and mind you I’m not simply moralizing!” he said. “Gossip is harmful to people, our work and our surroundings.”
By Nicole Winfield, The Enquirer, December 22, 2013, Page A10