The Vatican

The humility of service, in order to be truly useful to everyone

In Pope Francis' traditional Christmas message to the Roman Curia, which is usually a time for reflection, the Holy Father dwelled on the temptation of "spiritual worldliness."

Giovanni Tridente-December 27, 2021-Reading time: 3 minutes

Photo: ©2021 Catholic News Service / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The illnesses, temptations and afflictions that compromise the "organism" of the Roman Curia - the group of cardinals and bishops who collaborate with the Pope and the Holy See - have always been at the center of the annual greetings to which Pope Francis has accustomed us since his election. It has always been, in short, a moment of verification and reflection, almost like an introspective analysis to better understand "who we are and our mission".

This year, too, the Pontiff was no exception, and he focused on a specific temptation, which he has already identified on other occasions as "spiritual worldliness," the overcoming of which, however, benefits the general service offered by the various Vatican dicasteries to the universal Church.

Back to humility

The key to avoid running the risk of being "generals of defeated armies rather than mere soldiers of a squadron that continues to fight," as he already indicated in his Evangelii gaudium, is to return - and with a certain diligence - to humility, a word and an attitude unfortunately forgotten today and emptied of moralism. And yet, humility is precisely the first door of God's entry into history.

In his speech, which was not brief, Pope Francis reiterated to his collaborators that one cannot "spend one's life hiding behind an armor, a role, a social recognition", because sooner or later this lack of sincerity will take its toll and show all its inconsistency, besides being, in the Church, a serious setback: "if we forget our humanity we live only by the honors of our armor".

Overcoming pride

What, then, should a humble Roman Curia be like? Surely it should not be ashamed of its frailties, for "knowing how to inhabit our humanity without despair, with realism, joy and hope". The opposite of humility is "pride", which goes hand in hand with the "most perverse fruit of spiritual worldliness" which are "securities". While the latter show a lack of faith, hope and charity, pride is "like chaff", which besides generating a sterile sadness, deprives the Church of "roots" and "branches".

Remember and generate

The roots bear witness to the link with the past, with Tradition, with the example of those who have preceded us in evangelization; the shoots are emblems of vitality and projection into the future. With this awareness, a humble Church and Curia are capable of "remembering", treasuring and reliving - Pope Francis added in his reasoning - and of "generating", that is, looking forward with a memory full of gratitude.

The humble, in short, "push towards what they do not know", "accept to be questioned" and open themselves to the new with hope and trust. Without this attitude, one runs the risk of falling ill and disappearing: "without humility, neither God nor one's neighbor can be found".

Basically, if our proclamation preaches "poverty", the Curia must stand out for its "sobriety"; if the Word of God preaches "justice", the Roman Curia must shine for its transparency, without favoritism or entanglements, was the Pope's warning.

The Synod test bed

An immediate testing ground to highlight concrete humility is precisely the synodal journey that the Church is undergoing and that the Roman Curia is called to support as a protagonist, not only because it represents the organizational engine but above all because, as the Holy Father has reiterated, it must "set an example".

Also for the Pope's collaborators, therefore, humility must be declined in the three key words Francis used during the opening of the synodal assembly last October: participation, communion and mission.

A participatory Roman Curia is one that places "co-responsibility" in the first place, which also translates for those in charge into a more helpful and collaborative spirit.

It is a Curia that creates communion, because it is centered on Christ through prayer and the reading of the Word, is concerned for the good of others, recognizes diversity and lives its work in a spirit of sharing.

Finally, it is a missionary Curia, which shows passion for the poor and the marginalized, also because it is evident that even today, and precisely in a synodal phase in which we want to listen to "everyone" indiscriminately, "their voice, their presence, their questions" are missing.

A humble Church is, therefore, a community of the faithful "that places its center outside of itself", aware - Pope Francis concluded - that "only by serving and only by thinking of our work as service can we be truly useful to all".

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