Pope Francis called on the Roman Curia to look to the outside world as a fundamental factor in the curial reform he initiated in the past years. His comments came on December 21, 2017, in audience the cardinals and superiors of the Roman Curia for the presentation of Christmas greetings.
The Holy Father noted that he has already talked of the Roman Curia ad intra (how the Church works internally). But he now focused on the Curia ad extra, “on its relationship with the nations, with the Particular Churches, with the Oriental Churches, with ecumenical dialogue, with Judaism, with Islam and other religions – in other words, with the outside world.”
He admitted that reform is not easy, referring to “the amusing yet pointed remark of Archbishop Frédéric-François-Xavier de Mérode: ‘Making reforms in Rome is like cleaning the Sphinx with a toothbrush’. Francis said this “points to the patience, tenacity, and sensitivity needed to attain that goal.”
The Pope referred to comments in a recent meeting with the Fathers and Heads of the Oriental Catholic Churches when he discussed the ministerial, Petrine and curial finality of service. “I used the expression ‘diaconal primacy’, which immediately calls to mind the image of the Servus servorum Dei, so beloved of Saint Gregory the Great…A similar diaconal attitude should characterize all those who in various ways work in the context of the Roman Curia. For the Curia, as the Code of Canon Law also states, “performs its function”, in the name and with the authority of the Supreme Pontiff, “for the good and service of the Churches” (can. 360; cf. CCEO, can. 46).
“Another ancient text adds that deacons are called to be, as it were, the eyes of the Bishop,” Francis recalled. “The eye sees in order to transmit images to the mind, helping it to take decisions and to give direction for the good of the whole body.
“The relationship that these images suggest is that of communion in filial obedience for the service of God’s holy people. There can be doubt, then, that such must be also the relationship that exists between all those who work in the Roman Curia. From the Dicastery heads and superiors to the officials and all others. Communion with Peter reinforces and reinvigorates communion between all the members.”
The Pope also stressed the fundamental role of the Vatican in diplomacy. He reminded his audience that the Holy See must be a “builder of bridges, peace, and dialogue between nations.” He continued: “As it is a diplomacy at the service of humanity and the human person, of outstretched hand and open door, it seeks to listen, to understand, to help, to support and to intervene quickly and respectfully in any situation, for the sake of narrowing distances and building trust. Its only interest is to remain free of all worldly or material self-interest.”
He affirmed that the Holy See cooperates with all people and nations of good will, working to protect “our common home” selfishness and war.
The Holy Father reminded the group that, “The Roman Curia thus has as its point of reference not only the Bishop of Rome, from whom it receives its authority but also the particular Churches and their Pastors throughout the world, for whose good it functions and acts.”
In a subtle reference from his devotion to “Mary Undoer of Knots,” Francis said: “The work of the Curia in this area is aimed at fostering encounter with our brothers and sisters, untying the knots of misunderstanding and hostility, and counteracting prejudices and the fear of the other, all of which have prevented us from seeing the richness in diversity and the depth of the Mystery of Christ and of the Church. For that mystery is always greater than any human words can express.”