Pope Francis Calls on Vatican Officials to Embrace Change in Christmas Message

Pope Francis greets cardinals on the occasion of his Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia, in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, Pool)

As the decade comes to an end, Pope Francis focused on change — of all sorts — during his Dec. 21 Christmas speech to the cardinals and heads of the Vatican departments that make up the Roman Curia.

“Christian life is a journey, a pilgrimage. The history of the Bible is a journey, marked by constantly new beginnings,” Francis told the officials gathered in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

Francis called the present time not one of linear evolution, but of “epochal” changes. “It entails decisions that rapidly transform our ways of living, of relating to one another, of communicating and thinking, of how different generations relate to one another and how we understand and experience faith and science,” he said.

“Often people experience change by limiting themselves to putting on a new dress, when in reality they stay the same,” Francis said.

“The healthy approach is rather to let oneself be interrogated by challenges of the present time,” he added. “Change in this sense, would assume an entirely different aspect: from a surrounding element, a context and a pretext, from an outside landscape… it would become ever more human, and Christian.”

The pope’s Christmas message to the powerful heads of the curia is an important yearly appointment that offers a look at the pontiff as a manager, who uses words such as “mission,” “synergy” and “change” in a down to earth way.

Francis’ election to the pontificate in 2013 took place under the assumption that he would be the pope to enact long awaited reform, not just in the handling of the sexual abuse crisis but also – and perhaps more importantly – in cleaning up the Vatican finances and taking on the bureaucratic pachyderm that is the Roman Curia.

Concerning sexual abuse, the pope undertook a flurry of activity in the days leading up to the holidays. On Tuesday, he released a document lifting pontifical secrecy for cases of sexual abuse by clergy (with powerful repercussions in canon law, especially for victims).

On the same day he accepted the resignation of former papal representative to Francis, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, who was accused of inappropriate touching of young men.

The pope began his speech Saturday with the acceptance of the resignation of the 92-year-old Cardinal Angelo Sodano as dean of the College of Cardinals.

The acceptance of Sodano’s resignation fits with the trend of removing officials who have been notoriously tied to sexual abuse coverup. Sodano had been a supporter of the known pedophile and former priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ. In 2010, Sodano was accused of halting investigations into the case of Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër, who was charged on multiple counts of sexual abuse of children in the 1990’s.

That same year, the cardinal referred to the mounting evidence of widespread sexual abuse by priests as “petty gossip.”

His resignation is especially significant given the position he occupied within the Vatican for the past 15 years. In an attempt to perhaps reduce the power and influence that the dean of cardinals holds, Pope Francis also released a document on Saturday limiting its mandate to only five years.

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Source: Religion News Service