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Crisis is healthy for Church, Pope tells Curia

December 21, 2020

In his Christmas address to the Roman Curia, Pope Francis said that crisis can be beneficial to the Church, but conflict is always destructive.

The annual address to the Vatican leadership has become a key indicator of papal priorities, and in past years Pope Francis has surprised his listeners with blunt criticism of what he has seen as deficiencies in the Curia. This year, his lengthy address took a different approach, advising against internal conflicts.

“Crisis generally has a positive outcome, whereas conflict always creates discord and competition, an apparently irreconcilable antagonism that separates others into friends to love and enemies to fight,” the Pope said.

“Every crisis contains a rightful demand for renewal,” the Pontiff explained. The key to successful renewal, he said, is to see the problems facing the Church from the perspective of the Gospel. “Those who fail to view a crisis in the light of the Gospel simply perform an autopsy on a cadaver,” he said.

Authentic renewal, the Pope continued, requires ‘the courage to be completely open.” He contrasted that open attitude with the attitude of those who see a crisis in terms of conflict between different viewpoints.

The proper perspective, Pope Francis told the audience in the Hall of Blessings, is ensured by working to serve others. “We cannot see God’s face,” he said, “but we can experience it in his turning toward us whenever we show respect for our neighbor, for others who cry out to us in their need.”

“We need to stop seeing the reform of the Church as putting a patch on an old garment, or simply drafting a new apostolic constitution,” the Pope told the Curia. His mention of an apostolic constitution was clearly a reference to the long-awaited document with which he will reorganize the offices of the Roman Curia. He seemed to be underlining a message that he has delivered in past years, telling the Vatican leaders that authentic reform entails not merely a realignment of offices and responsibilities, but an entirely new attitude.

Pope Francis paid tribute to Vatican officials who work quietly for the welfare of the Church, noting that their efforts are rarely noticed, while the failings of other officials draw widespread attention. The difficulty, he said, “is that problems immediately end up in the newspapers, while signs of hope only make the news much later—if at all.”

In a quick reference to the scandals that have shaken the Curia during the past year, the Pope said: “This reflection on crisis warns us against judging the Church hastily on the basis of the crises caused by scandals past and present.”


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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Dec. 28, 2020 10:54 AM ET USA

    I find it curious that the two authors cited in the Pope's address both seem to have a questionable relationship with morality, and certainly no relationship with Christian morality. Does this frequent reference to questionable moralists (e.g., Leonardo Boff, et al.) represent an ongoing crisis between Pope Francis and the Catholic faith? There is no question that Pope Francis wishes to represent a crisis for the Catholic Church. But his appears to be a record of conflict more than of eirenism.

  • Posted by: rfr46 - Dec. 28, 2020 8:40 AM ET USA

    I think that a more fitting word is disaster.

  • Posted by: feedback - Dec. 22, 2020 1:53 PM ET USA

    The question emerges: Is the papacy of Jorge Bergoglio just a crisis in the Church, or a destructive conflict?