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The model of St Joseph

Conciliar renewal and Paul VI formed the basis of the address which the Bishop of Rome - “from the ends of the earth” - delivered to the Roman Curia in answer to the Cardinal Deacon's Christmas greeting on behalf of the entire Curia. At the conclusion of an exceptional year, a papal succession without precedent, he visible demonstrated the vitality of the Church in her attention the signs of the times.

Unlike Montini, who had more than thirty years of experience in the Curia, and a privileged one as Secretary of State, the current Successor was a religious and bishop chiefly in his own homeland, with increasing and important responsibility within the lively Latin American episcopate and in the progressive collegial maturation which the Council intended for the Church.

Two very different experiences, then, but with a point of convergence, so much so that in his Christmas address Pope Francis recalled the words of Paul VI to the Roman Curia on 21 September 1963, exactly three months after his election and on the eve before the Council's work was resumed: “The duty to be authentically Christian is here extremely challenging”. And again, in another address which shall always be memorable and hold true: “Every moment, every aspect of our lives has an influence around us, which may be beneficial, if we are faithful to what Christ wants of us; or evil, if we are unfaithful”. Thus, Montini described the model organism compared to a lamp on the candelabrum of the Gospel.

The Bishop of Rome again evoked “the curiales of olden times, exemplary persons” who “offer a very important witness in the Church’s journey through history”. The need for an exemplary curial body that renews itself each day: a Curia semper reformanda one might say, by keeping in mind the criteria set by the Bishop of Rome, who also on this account wished to establish and to announce a Council of eight Cardinals just one month after his election to the Chair of Peter.

Professionalism and service are the criteria set forth with acute precision: “competence, study, keeping abreast of things” first, “service to the Pope and to the bishops, to the universal Church and to the particular Churches “ second. If these are lacking, “the structure of the Curia turns into a ponderous, bureaucratic customshouse, constantly inspecting and questioning, hindering the working of the Holy Spirit and the growth of God’s people”.

However, everything rests on holiness of life, which is no stranger to the curial world as oversimplifications might suggest: “In the Roman Curia,” Pope Francis said, “there have been, and still are, saints. I have said this publicly on more than one occasion, as a way of thanking the Lord”. This is the model which is threatened by gossip which is not only harmful to people but also “harmful to our work and our surroundings”.

As Advent came to a close the Bishop of Rome invited the Curia to reflect on the model set forth by a saint he holds dear: Joseph, “who was so silent yet so necessary”, necessary at the side of Mary, who is the image of the Church, and Jesus, the baby who wills to be born in every heart.

g.m.v.

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 19, 2018

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