Pope calls for "diseased" Curia to heal itself

Yesterday Pope Francis sharply rebuked Vatican officials in his annual Christmas speech to his Curia staff and local cardinals.  This occasion is traditionally used by popes make a gentle review of the past year’s achievements and set goals for the year ahead.

The pope has frequently criticised the Curia’s resistance to reform and lack of human sympathy. In this impassioned and unexpected speech he listed  fifteen diseases to which his officials are particularly prone:

1) Feeling immortal, immune or indispensable.
"A Curia that doesn't criticise itself, that doesn't update itself, that doesn't seek to improve itself is a sick body."

2) Working too hard.
It is the disease of those who "lose themselves in their work, inevitably neglecting what is better; sitting at Jesus' feet." The Pope said that Jesus called on his disciples to "rest a little", because rest relieves anxiety and stress.

3) Becoming spiritually and mentally hardened.
"It's dangerous to lose that human sensibility that lets you cry with those who are crying, and celebrate those who are joyful."

4) Planning too much.
"Preparing things well is necessary, but don't fall into the temptation of trying to close or direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which is bigger and more generous than any human plan."

5) Working without co-ordination, like an orchestra that produces noise.
"When the foot tells the hand, 'I don't need you' or the hand tells the head 'I'm in charge.'"

6) Having 'spiritual Alzheimer's.'
"We see it in the people who have forgotten their encounter with the Lord ... in those who depend completely on their here and now, on their passions, whims and manias."

7) Being rivals or boastful.
"When one's appearance, the colour of one's vestments or honorific titles become the primary objective of life."

8) Suffering from 'existential schizophrenia.'
"It's the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy that is typical of mediocre and progressive spiritual emptiness that academic degrees cannot fill. It's a sickness that often affects those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic work, losing contact with reality and concrete people."

9) Committing the 'terrorism of gossip.'
"It's the sickness of cowardly people who, not having the courage to speak directly, talk behind people's backs."

10) Glorifying one's bosses.
"It's the sickness of those who court their superiors, hoping for their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, they honour people who aren't God."

11) Being indifferent to others.
"When, out of jealousy or cunning, one finds joy in seeing another fall rather than helping him up and encouraging him."

12) Having a 'funereal face.'
"In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity. The apostle must be polite, serene, enthusiastic and happy and transmit joy wherever he goes."

13) Wanting more.
"When the apostle tries to fill an existential emptiness in his heart by accumulating material goods, not because he needs them but because he'll feel more secure."

14) Forming 'closed circles' that seek to be stronger than the whole.
"This sickness always starts with good intentions but as time goes by, it enslaves its members by becoming a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body and causes so much bad – scandals – especially to our younger brothers."

15) Seeking worldly profit and showing off.
"It's the sickness of those who insatiably try to multiply their powers and to do so are capable of calumny, defamation and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally to show themselves as being more capable than others."

He even criticised their poor sense of humour and accused officials of hiding their mediocrity behind a severe persona.  Instead he advised them to show a "joyous spirit, full of humour and even self-mockery, that makes us amiable persons, even in difficult situations."

Pope Francis demonstrated his Jesuit charism by suggesting his words should be a "support and stimulus to a true examination of conscience" in preparation for the sacrament of reconciliation before Christmas.

The pope concluded on a more encouraging note, acknowledging  that the failings of a few have discredited the virtuous majority of the church's ministers.

There was silence in the Clementine Hall at the end of the speech, following which the pope spent about half an hour offering personal greetings to officials and cardinals.