Pope Francis’s broadside leaves Roman curia shocked and awed

Pope describes administration’s failings as 15 sicknesses

Pope Francis delivers his Christmas address to the Roman curia in the Vatican’s Clementina hall. Photograph: Andreas Solaro/Reuters

Pope Francis delivers his Christmas address to the Roman curia in the Vatican’s Clementina hall. Photograph: Andreas Solaro/Reuters

 

It is clear that Pope Francis’s pre-Christmas address to the Roman curia this week did not sit well with many of its members. It was a coruscating and very public critique.

In one photograph, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, head of the papal household, secretary to Pope Francis and to Pope Emeritus Benedict, looked less than pleased. Last March the archbishop told German television he was shocked at the election of Pope Francis.

He “favoured other candidates – I was wrong – but then so were other people”. He said the pope was the darling of the media “but that won’t always be the case”. The pope is not “everybody’s darling”, he said.

We can be sure that is also the case where the archbishop and members of the curia are concerned. This is more or less the same curia blamed by the College of Cardinals in great part for Pope Benedict’s unexpected resignation last year.

Pope Francis listed their sins as 15 sicknesses, including “spiritual Alzheimer’s disease”, “existential schizophrenia”, and “Martha-ism”.

Sick body

There was “the sickness of feeling oneself immortal, immune or in fact indispensable”, he said. Graveyards were full of such people, he added, saying a curia “which does not seek to improve itself is a sick body”.

There was the “Martha-ism’ [derived from Lazarus’s sister] of excessive busyness of those who immerse themselves in work” and the “mental and spiritual petrification” of those “who have a heart of stone and a stiff neck”.

There was also the sickness of “excessive planning and functionalism”.

Fifth was “bad co-ordination” when members lose communion among themselves” and that “of spiritual Alzheimer’s” . . . “a progressive decline of the spiritual faculty”.

Next was “rivalry and vainglory” when “appearance, the colour of garments and signs of honour become the primary objective of life”. There was the “existential schizophrenia” of those “who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy typical of the mediocre”, “of gossip, of grumbling and of tittle-tattle”, and of the “divinising directors . . . who court their superiors”.

There was the “sickness of indifference to others”, that “of the mournful face” and “the sickness of accumulating”, “of closed circles” where belonging to a little group becomes more important than that of belonging to the body”. And finally “the sickness of worldly profit”, where service becomes power and power “merchandise to obtain worldly profits or more powers”.

The speech is at www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-christmas-greetings-to-curia