Pope Francis’ has delivered his first Christmas message to the Curia since taking the power position of head of the Catholic church in March of 2013 and some are wondering when more heads will roll. The Curia consists of bishops, monsignor, cardinals and lay persons who work in various departments throughout the Vatican. The figurative and literal customer to these departments are the 1.2 billion Catholics throughout the world. It is being widely reported that he has chastised the Vatican bureaucracy for gossip and mediocrity. He denounced them for the downward spiral of the Curia, saying that they were hindering the work of the Holy Spirit and stunting the growth of God’s people.
While the Pope’s message could be considered a tongue lashing, it should be remembered that Pope Francis was chosen to fix things around the big house. When Francis took the office the Vatican was embroiled in scandal, accusations of cronyism, theft and a myriad of bad for business public issues. There is little doubt that the Vatican overhaul has begun. The message to the Curia, the “management” team of the Vatican, was delivered much like a large company’s CEO addressing the high level management team. His talking points were about professionalism and the lack thereof. Saying that when professionalism was absent mediocrity will take its place. Pope Francis said that this lack of professionalism was surfacing through the Curia’s inability to remain focused on God’s people and service to their needs.
The Christmas message of Pope Francis that is heard in subtler tones is that heads will roll. The Pope is becoming ever more experienced in firing high level staff from the Curia. His Christmas message to the Curia? Shape up or ship out. In the past week he has shuffled the powerful board of Congregation of Bishops. This board is responsible for vetting all nominations for the position of bishop. Francis has sacked the arch-conservative American Cardinal Raymond Burke who was an important figure in the wars over abortion and gay marriage. The Pope also removed Cardinal Mauro Piacenza and removed the head of Italy’s bishop conference. Pope Francis is sending a message that the time for change is now. In the near future he will also be choosing his slate of cardinals and meeting with his eight cardinal advisers. This is the third summit of this group whose mission is to put forth the first round of recommendations for revitalizing the bureaucracy that surrounds the Vatican.
Francis has stated his goals and is expecting compliance from the Curia. He wants an organization that is quick to respond to the needs of the local bishops throughout the world. The Vatican has often been criticized for its slow time-table when issues and needs arise among the bishops. Francis is also wanting a Vatican that will stop the gossip which does nothing but interfere with the true work of the Vatican. Caring for the needs of the flock. His message on Christmas eve will focus on the “good” news of Christ’s birth and how it was announced by angels to shepherds. Shepherds of that time were considered outcasts and the lowliest and yet they were chosen to receive the news. Francis will recount this story to the millions of people who will attend and listen to his Christmas message.
Pope Francis expressed appreciation for the attendance of the cardinals, bishops and priests who gathered to receive his Christmas message. He said he admired their creativity, work and diligence but it was evident that Pope Francis would not shy away from his mission and if necessary further dismissals would occur. He thanked the saints that sat among the audience and left them with a message of needed change to truly be an important part of the lives of the billions of Catholics throughout the world.
Written by Anthony Clark