Pope Francis's Christmas Greeting

“Best wishes for a holy and serene Christmas!”

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would like to begin this meeting of ours by offering cordial good wishes to all of you, superiors and officials, papal representatives and staff of the nunciatures worldwide, all those working in the Roman Curia and to your families. Best wishes for a holy and serene Christmas and a happy New Year 2017!

Saint Augustine, contemplating the face of the Baby Jesus, exclaimed: "Immense in the form of God, tiny in the form of a slave." To describe the mystery of the Incarnation, Saint Macarius, the fourth-century monk and disciple of Saint Anthony Abbot, used the Greek verb "smikryno," to become small, to reduce to the bare minimum.

He says: "Listen attentively: the infinite, unapproachable and uncreated God, in his immense and ineffable goodness has taken a body, and, I dare say, infinitely diminished his glory."

Christmas is thus the feast of the loving humility of God, of the God who upsets our logical expectations, the established order, the order of the dialectician and the mathematician. In this upset lies all the richness of God's own thinking, which overturns our limited human ways of thinking (cf. Is 55: 8-9).

As Romano Guardini said: "What an overturning of all our familiar values - not only human values but also divine values! Truly this God upsets everything that we claim to build up on our own." At Christmas, we are called to say "yes" with our faith, not to the Master of the universe, and not even to the most noble of ideas, but precisely to this God who is the humble lover.

God chose to be born a tiny child because he wanted to be loved. Here we see, as it were, how the logic of Christmas is the overturning of worldly logic, of the mentality of power and might, the thinking of the Pharisees and those who see things only in terms of causality or determinism.

In this gentle yet overpowering light of the divine countenance of the Christ Child, I have chosen as the theme of this, our yearly meeting, the reform of the Roman Curia.

 It seemed to me right and fitting to share with you the framework of the reform, to point out its guiding principles, the steps taken so far, but above all the logic behind every step already taken and what is yet to come. Here I spontaneously think of the ancient adage that describes the process of the Spiritual Exercises in the Ignatian method: deformata reformare, reformata conformare, conformata confirmare et confirmata transformare.

There can be no doubt that, for the Curia, the word reform is to be understood in two ways. First of all, it has to make the Curia con-form "to the Good News which must be proclaimed joyously and courageously to all, especially to the poor, the least and the outcast". To make it con-form "to the signs of our time and to all its human achievements," so as "better to meet the demands of the men and women whom we are called to serve."

 At the same time, this means con-forming the Curia ever more fully to its purpose, which is that of cooperating in the ministry of the Successor of Peter (cum ipso consociatam operam prosequuntur, as the Motu Proprio "Humanam Progre-ssionem" puts it), and supporting the Roman Pontiff in the exercise of his singular, ordinary, full, supreme, immediate and universal power.

Consequently, the reform of the Roman Curia must be guided by ecclesiology and directed in bonum et in servitium, as is the service of the Bishop of Rome.

 This finds eloquent expression in the words of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, quoted in the third chapter of the Constitution "Pastor Aeternus" of the First Vatican Council: "My honor is that of the universal Church. My honor is the solid strength of my brothers. I feel truly honored when none of them is denied his due honor."

Since the Curia is not an immobile bureaucratic apparatus, reform is first and foremost a sign of life, of a Church that advances on her pilgrim way, of a Church that is living and for this reason semper reformanda, in need of reform because she is alive. Here it must clearly be said that reform is not an end unto itself, but rather a process of growth and above all of conversion.

Consequently, the aim of reform is not aesthetic, an effort to improve the looks of the Curia, nor can it be understood as a sort of facelift, using make-up and cosmetics to embellish its aging body, nor even as an operation of plastic surgery to take away its wrinkles. Dear brothers and sisters, it isn't wrinkles we need to worry about in the Church, but blemishes!

Seen in this light, we need to realize that the reform will be effective only if it is carried out with men and women who are renewed and not simply new. We cannot be content simply with changing personnel, but need to encourage spiritual, human and professional renewal among the members of the Curia.

The reform of the Curia is in no way implemented with a change of persons - something that certainly is happening and will continue to happen - but with a conversion in persons. Permanent formation is not enough; what we need also and above all is permanent conversion and purification. Without a change of mentality, efforts at practical improvement will be in vain.

That is why, in our last two meetings at Christmas, I discussed certain "diseases," drawing on the teaching of the Desert Fathers (2014), and compiled, on the basis of the word "mercy," a catalogue of virtues necessary for curial officials and all those who wish their consecration or service to the Church to become more fruitful (2015).

 The underlying reason is that, as in the case of the Church overall, the semper reformanda must also become, in the case of the Curia, a permanent personal and structural process of conversion. It was necessary to speak of disease and cures because every surgical operation, if it is to be successful, must be preceded by detailed diagnosis and careful analysis, and needs to be accompanied and followed up by precise prescriptions.

In this process, it is normal and indeed healthy, to encounter difficulties, which in the case of the reform, might present themselves as different types of resistance.

There can be cases of open resistance, often born of goodwill and sincere dialogue, and cases of hidden resistance, born of fearful or hardened hearts content with the empty rhetoric of a complacent spiritual reform, on the part of those who say they are ready for change, but want everything to remain as it is.

 There are also cases of malicious resistance, which spring up in misguided minds and come to the fore when the devil inspires ill intentions (often cloaked in sheep's clothing).

 This last kind of resistance hides behind words of self-justification and often accusation; it takes refuge in traditions, appearances, formalities, in the familiar, or else in a desire to make everything personal, failing to distinguish between the act, the actor and the action.

The absence of reaction is a sign of death! Consequently, the good cases of resistance - and even those not quite so good - are necessary and merit being listened to, welcomed and their expression encouraged. (Abridged)

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