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A small-scale model of the Church

The Roman Curia and the Body of Christ: The Pope addressed a discourse, both powerful and demanding, shown by its original title, to all the cardinals and closest colleagues. He then addressed the Vatican employees, whom he met immediately afterwards, also recommending that they read these two addresses together and in light of the Christian mystery of the Incarnation of the Lord who, in his poverty — in Francis’ words — teaches mankind “the power of humility”.

Thus, the Successor of Peter offered a unique meditation in order to support and stimulate “a true examination of conscience” in preparation for Christmas. He compared the image of the Church to the mystical Body of Christ, an image rooted in Scripture and in patristic writings, as underlined in the Mystici Corporis of Pius xii and the Conciliar Constitution Lumen Gentium, which were cited explicitly by the Pontiff.

In this challenging comparison, Francis sees the Curia as “a small-scale model of the Church” which, because it is a complex but coordinated body, must renew itself daily for “an effective, edifying, disciplined and exemplary functioning”. This brings to mind the address of Paul vi to the Curia on 21 September 1963: “Everywhere looks to Catholic Rome, to the Roman Pontificate, to the Roman Curia. The duty to be authentic Christians is most intensely challenging here. We would not remind you of this duty, if we did not remind ourselves of it every day. All in Rome is a lesson: in letter and spirit. How to think, how to study, how to speak, how to feel, how to act, how to suffer, how to pray, how to serve, how to love; every moment, every aspect of our life casts around us a light, which can be beneficial, if faithful to what Christ wants of us; harmful, if unfaithful”.

Four years after the discourse of Montini, who served for 30 years in the Curia, came the reform designated in the Regimini Ecclesiae Universae and pursued with patient tenacity. But renewal must be continual: ecclesia semper reformanda, an ancient principle restated at the beginning of Pastor Bonus. “The Curia is called constantly to improve and to grow ”, Francis then summarized. Then, recalling the ancient monastic tradition, he recited a veritable and at times scathing catalogue of 15 “diseases” of the Curia, which are also naturally “a danger for each Christian and for every curia, community, congregation, parish and ecclesial movement”.

The Pope once again recalled the soul of the Church, which he has insisted upon from the very first hours of his Pontificate: the Holy Spirit, who gives life, has the power to cure every ill and to promote harmony. It is therefore necessary to pray and work in order that the Church and the Curia “healthy and health-giving; holy and sanctifying”. The Pontiff made a request for forgiveness, renewed in front of the Vatican employees, for “the shortcomings, mine and those of my colleagues, and also for any scandals, which cause so much harm”. For the Roman Curia has a special duty of exemplarity before the Church.

g.m.v.

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 23, 2018

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