NEWS reports and commentaries about the speech the Holy Father gave on the morning of December 23, during the traditional annual audience with the Cardinals and Superiors of the Roman Curia for the presentation of Christmas greetings, made it sound like the Pope was humiliating his Cabinet members.
The talk he gave after he greeted the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, has been reported on and described often out of context. Some reporters and editors obviously wanted to project an image of the Pope as a stern boss at his wit’s end over the sinfulness, corruption and malfeasances of the members of the Roma Curia and the Vatican bureaucracy.
A careful reading of the Pope’s speech, in which the media reported him to have enumerated “15 ailments” of the Curia officials, will show that he was actually doing what a fatherly spiritual director does when inviting his charges to an examination of conscience. He did say this early on in his speech: “I would like our meeting and the reflections that I will share with you to become, for us all, a support and stimulus to a true examination of conscience to prepare our hearts for Holy Christmas.”
He began his speech with an introduction which recalls that the gathering was a traditional event.
“At the end of Advent we meet for the traditional greetings. In a few days we will have the joy of celebrating the Lord’s birth; the event of God who makes himself man to save men; the manifestation of the love of God who does not limit himself to give us something or to send us some message or some messengers, but gives himself to us; the mystery of God that takes our human condition and our sins on himself to reveal his divine life to us, his immense grace and his gratuitous forgiveness. It is the meeting with God who is born in the poverty of the cave of Bethlehem to teach us the power of humility. In fact, Christmas is also the feast of light that was not received by the ‘Chosen People’ but by the ‘poor and simple people,’ who awaited the Lord’s salvation.
“First of all, I would like to wish you all – collaborators, brothers and sisters, papal representatives scattered throughout the world – and all your dear ones, a Holy Christmas and a happy New Year. I want to thank you cordially for your daily commitment at the service of the Holy See, of the Catholic Church, of the particular Churches and of the Successor of Peter.
“We being persons and not numbers or just denominations, I remember in a special way those that, during this year, finished their service having reached the age limit or having taken on other roles or because they were called to the House of the Father. To all of them also, and to their families, go my thoughts and gratitude.
“Together with you I wish to elevate to the Lord a heartfelt and profound gratitude for the year we are leaving behind, for the events lived and for all the good that He willed generously to fulfill through the service of the Holy See, asking Him humbly for forgiveness for the faults committed ‘in thoughts, words, deeds and omissions.’
Here he invited those in the gathering to an examination of conscience:
“And, in fact, beginning from this request for forgiveness, I would like our meeting and the reflections that I will share with you to become, for us all, a support and stimulus to a true examination of conscience to prepare our hearts for Holy Christmas.”
From these words one can see that while the Holy Father indeed wishes to see reforms in the way the Vatican offices are run, he wishes these to happen through the growth of Christ in each of the Curia members.
From us the editors of The Manila Times a Blessed Merry Christmas season to all.