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Sunday, 22 December 2013

Pope to the Roman Curia : Be like St. Joseph, silent and necessary in service to the Church - Asia News

The Christmas Papal Address to the Roman Curia seems to be an occasion when a Pope sets out the something of his defining approach for his pontificate. At one such address, Pope Benedict explored his theory of the Church's renewal in continuity, the famous "hermeneutic of continuity" in contrast with the "hermeneutic of rupture" according to which some say that the Second Vatican Council marks a break with the past and a fresh beginning for the Catholic Church akin to the Reformation for Protestants.

At Christmas 2013, Pope Francis explains what he is in mind for the role of Curia itself: like St Joseph to be of silent service to the rest of the Church as needed, for the support and assistance it calls upon. This will be of great interest to well disposed Orthodox observers (note well the recent remarks of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow that he has "high hopes" of Pope Francis' pontificate for change in the way the Roman primacy is exercised and offered; but will there be corresponding changes to the way in which the Moscow patriarchate is offered and exercised around the world too?), who are heard to remark that, while they understand the case for a universal primatial role in the service of all the Churches and while they see that that role could belong to none other than the Bishop of Rome, the problem is not the office of the Pope but the apparatus and powers of his Curia, which no Orthodox Church would accept. It's fair to say that the Eastern Catholic Churches, too, have needed constantly to assert their integrity and autocephaly - often supported by the Pope himself - in the face of the curial machinery that sees itself as the agent of direct jurisdictional supervision and control. Yet the Pope understands from direct experience the fact of the Eastern Churches' distinct life and governance and that these are enhanced not by jurisdiction, but by communion. His two predecessors said similar things.

We have speculated before about the future of the Oriental dicastery at Rome. If, like the rest of the Roman Curia, it is to be of "silent service as needed" to the Church, is it to be an agent of the Bishop of Rome as primate of the Latin Roman Catholic Church, or as universal pastor for all the Churches of East and West; or is it to be a joint commission of and for all the Eastern Catholic churches and their patriarchs alongside the Pope, precisely for the purpose of "service as needed"?

Depending on the answer to those choices, the next question is, "How does the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity relate to it?" Is the Unity dicastery to be the ecumenical agency for the Pope as Primate of the Latin Roman Catholic Church, or in his role as universal pastor serving all the Catholic Churches of East and West? This is particular importance in respect of those Orthodox Churches which avoid respecting the Eastern Catholic Churches as legitimate, yet are keen on good relations and even advancing unity with the Catholic Church, seen and reflected back to itself as a purely Latin Roman Catholic entity. Thus the ostpolitik of the Catholic Church at the universal level is Latin and leaves out the Eastern Catholics, and the westpolitik of some Orthodox Churches tactically ignores them too. Where, then, does the determined, historic and effective ecumenism of, say the Ukrainian Catholic Church or of the Melkite and Chaldean Churches find expression and engagement in the ecumenism of the Catholic Church at its universal level of operation? Why is this left to the hands of the Latin Church's ecumenists, however well informed of and disposed to the Eastern Catholic Churches they may be?

If the Curia is to be re-configured to be agencies of service to the Church where it lives locally and regionally, as well as at its universal level, attention needs to be focused to on its service to Christian and Church unity. In the spirit of Catholic communion, this must mean a much greater and involved relation between the work of the Eastern Churches and the Christian Unity dicasteries as joint commissions serving the efforts of the churches where they are.

Here is a report on Pope Francis' Christmas address to the Roman Curia, followed by the text:
VATICAN Pope to the Roman Curia : Be like St. Joseph, silent and necessary in service to the Church - Asia News

Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Once again the Lord has enabled us to journey through Advent, and all too quickly we have come to these final days before Christmas. They are days marked by a unique spiritual climate made up of emotions, memories and signs, both liturgical and otherwise, such as the crèche. It is in this climate that this traditional meeting takes place with you, the superiors and officials of the Roman Curia, who cooperate daily in the service of the Church. I greet all of you with affection. Allow me to extend a special greeting to Archbishop Pietro Parolin, who recently began his service as Secretary of State, and who needs our prayers!

While our hearts are full of gratitude to God, who so loved us that he gave us his only-begotten Son, it is also good to make room for gratitude to one another. In this, my first Christmas as the Bishop of Rome, I also feel the need to offer sincere thanks to all of you as a community of service, and to each of you individually. I thank you for the work which you do each day: for the care, diligence and creativity which you display; and for your effort I know it is not always easy to work together in the office, both to listen to and to challenge one another, and to bring out the best in all your different personalities and gifts, in a spirit of mutual respect.

In a particular way, I want to express my gratitude to those now concluding their service and approaching retirement. As priests and bishops, we know full well that we never really retire, but we do leave the office, and rightly so, not least to devote ourselves more fully to prayer and the care of souls, starting with our own! So a very special and heartfelt thank you goes to those of you who have worked here for so many years with immense dedication, hidden from the eyes of the world. This is something truly admirable. I have such high regard for these Monsignori who are cut from the same mould as the curiales of olden times, exemplary persons. We need them today, too! People who work with competence, precision and self-sacrifice in the fulfilment of their daily duties. Here I would like to mention some of them by name, as a way of expressing my esteem and my gratitude, but we know that, in any list, the first names people notice are the ones that are missing! Besides, I would also risk overlooking someone and thus committing an injustice and a lack of charity. But I want to say to these brothers of ours that they offer a very important witness in the Churchs journey through history.
This mould and this witness make me think of two hallmarks of the curial official, and even more of curial superiors, which I would like to emphasize: professionalism and service.

Professionalism, by which I mean competence, study, keeping abreast of things. This is a basic requisite for working in the Curia. Naturally, professionalism is something which develops and is in part acquired; but I think that, precisely for it to develop and to be acquired, there has to be a good foundation from the outset.

The second hallmark is service: service to the Pope and to the bishops, to the universal Church and to the particular Churches. In the Roman Curia, one learns in a real way, one breathes in this twofold aspect of the Church, this interplay of the universal and the particular. I think that this is one of the finest experiences of those who live and work in Rome: to sense the Church in this way. When professionalism is lacking, there is a slow drift downwards towards mediocrity.

Dossiers become full of trite and lifeless information and incapable of opening up lofty perspectives. 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 Gods people.

To these two qualities of professionalism and service, I would also like to add a third, which is holiness of life. We know very well that, in the hierarchy of values, this is the most important.
Indeed, it is basic for the quality of our work, our service. And I want to say here that in the Roman Curia, there have been and there are saints; I have said this in public more than once, to thank the Lord. Holiness means a life immersed in the Spirit, a heart open to God, constant prayer, deep humility and fraternal charity in our relationships with our fellow workers. It also means apostleship, discreet and faithful pastoral service, zealously carried out in direct contact with Gods people. For priests, this is indispensable.

Holiness in the Curia also means conscientious objection to gossip! We rightfully insist on the importance of conscientious objection but perhaps we, too, need to exercise it as a means of defending ourselves from an unwritten law of our surroundings, which unfortunately is that of gossip. So let us all be conscientious objectors; and mind you, I am not simply preaching! Gossip is harmful to people, our work and our surroundings.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us feel close to one another on this final stretch of the road to Bethlehem. We would do well to meditate on Saint Joseph, who was so silent yet so necessary at the side of Our Lady. Let us think about him and his loving concern for his Spouse and for the Baby Jesus. This can tell us a lot about our own service to the Church! So let us experience this Christmas in spiritual closeness to Saint Joseph.

I thank you most heartily for your work and especially for your prayers. Truly I feel borne aloft by your prayers and I ask you to continue to support me in this way. I, too, remember you before the Lord, and I impart my blessing as I offer my best wishes for a Christmas filled with light and peace for each of you and for all your dear ones. Happy Christmas!


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