Reform is more than just a face-lift, pope tells Curia

By Junno Arocho Esteves

CITY (CNS) — The reform of the Roman Curia is not a mere face-lift to
rejuvenate an aging body but a process of deep, personal conversion, Pope
Francis said.

with cardinals and the heads of Vatican offices for his annual Christmas
greeting, the pope warned that “it is not wrinkles the church should
fear” but rather the stains that impede its growth and relevance in the

reform does not have an aesthetical end to make the Curia more beautiful; it
cannot be understood as a sort of face-lift or applying makeup to beautify the
elderly curial body, nor plastic surgery to remove wrinkles,” the pope
said Dec. 22.

his addresses in previous years focused on curial ills and medicinal virtues,
this year’s speech laid out a 12-step program of guiding principles geared
toward an appropriate and long-lasting recovery.

was necessary to speak of illnesses and cures so that every operation — to achieve
success — be preceded by an in-depth diagnosis, by accurate analyses and must
be accompanied and followed through with precise prescriptions,” the pope

certain forms of resistance to reform may come from a sense of goodwill or fear,
there are others that are based on malevolent intentions dressed like a wolf in
sheep’s clothing, he said.

last type of resistance hides behind justifying words and, in many cases,
accusatory; finding refuge in traditions, in appearances, in formality, in what
is known, or in wanting to bring everything on a personal level without
distinguishing between the act, the actor and the action,” the pope said.

no matter whether the intentions are good or bad, resistance is necessary and they
“deserve to be heard, received and encouraged because it is a sign that
that the body is alive.”

absence of reaction is a sign of death!” he exclaimed.

reform, however, must be viewed as a slow and delicate process that must be
followed through with continuous discernment, wisdom and action but above all,
“with many prayers.”

12 criteria, the pope explained that the reform is at its heart a sign of the
church’s liveliness and a “process of growth and above all,

guiding principles of the reform of the Roman Curia are:

Individuality (Personal conversion): A person’s spiritual well-being can either
strengthen the body of the Curia or damage it and make it sick.

Pastoral conversion: The workplace must have a pastoral spirit where “no
one feels neglected and mistreated” and everyone can experience the care of the Good

Missionary spirit (Christ-centric): Without an authentic evangelical spirit and
faithfulness of the church to its own vocation, “any new structure will
corrupt in short time.”

Rationality: No Vatican office is greater than another and the responsibilities
of each office must be clearly distinguished.

Functionality: The merging of offices, demotions and promotions must always be
done to streamline and hone in a dicastery’s specific mission.

Up-to-date (“Aggiornamento”): Vatican offices must read “the
signs of times” and adapt to the needs of the universal church.

Sobriety: The Roman Curia must be willing to simplify and slim down, especially
when it comes to “offices that are no longer responsive to contingent

Subsidiarity: Reorganize priorities within the offices and, if necessary,
shifting responsibilities to another dicastery while working in sync with the
Secretariat of State.

Synodality: Reducing or merging Vatican offices avoids fragmentation and allows
for more frequent meetings between the pope and the heads of those offices.

Catholicity: The Curia should mirror the universality and multicultural nature of
the church and hire personnel from around the world while emphasizing the important
role of permanent deacons and the laity — especially women — in the life and
mission of the church.

Professionalism: Every office must adopt a policy of personal formation to
avoid the “rust” and routine of functionalism, as well as putting a definitive
end to the practice of “promoveatur ut amoveatur” (“removal by
promotion”). “This is a cancer!” the pope exclaimed.

Graduality (Discernment): Taking time by verifying, correcting and discerning
methods and policies that can “allow the necessary flexibility to achieve
a true reform.”

also highlighted the various steps, structural changes and continuing processes
of the reform throughout his pontificate, all of which are meant to stress that
“the heart and center of the reform is Christ.”

a Christmas prayer written by the late Coptic Orthodox monk, Father Matta El Meskeen, the
pope said the birth of Christ is a “celebration of the loving humility of
God,” which stands in stark contrast to the logic of ambitions, power,
phariseeism, and domination.

greeting those present individually, Pope Francis said he had a gift for each
one of them: a copy of Jesuit Father Claudio Acquaviva’s 14th-century book,
“Curing the Illnesses of the Soul,” a guide for spiritual directors
that emphasized expressing views gently without compromising in substance.

a beautiful translation, it’s well-made and I think it can help,” the pope

Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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