THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON POPE FRANCIS
PROFESSIONALISM, SERVICE AND HOLINESS
December 24, 2013
Pope Francis addresses the Curia. There are lessons here for
our top leaders and governing/pastoral bodies.
First, the pope gives the proper way by which seniors (superiors)
in governing/pastoral bodies should work and relate. What
we need to do is “to work together in the office, both
to listen to and challenge one another, and to bring out the
best in all your different personalities and gifts, in a spirit
of mutual respect.”
Second, the pope talks of professionalism and service. In
this, we are not to be a “bureaucratic customs house,
constantly inspecting and questioning, hindering the working
of the Holy Spirit and the growth of God’s people.”
The purpose of a government’s custom house is precisely
to inspect and to question, because there are those importers
who would cheat the government of revenues. This ought not
to be our basic posture. While we should look into proposals
or projects and interpose questions as needed, it is not with
a negative but rather a positive attitude. It is obvious that
the pope does not mean we should not inspect or question.
But this speaks of a particular posture or frame of mind.
What is wrong is a case of constantly questioning, to the
point of opposing, initiatives that may come from the Holy
Spirit. Our proper posture is to be very open to what comes
from above, to start with a posture of, "Yes, that is
interesting, though very challenging. Let us see how it might
work out." Questioning should be for the sake of sincerely
understanding rather than just opposing. And questioning should
not in effect be judgmental, already imputing negative motives
or hidden agenda to whatever is presented. We should desire
to enhance what is put forward in order to bring out what
is best in it.
This is especially true when a challenging and out-of-the-box
proposal is put forth. We do not look at this with our own
biases, preferences, comfort zones, and yes, our own agenda.
We do not immediately think, “How will that affect me
negatively?,” but rather, “Is this indeed what
the Spirit is putting forth?.” We do not hinder the
work of the Holy Spirit simply because we are being challenged
to come out of our comfort zones. In fact, our ways and thoughts
are so far from God’s, and to immediately apply our
own human preferences or biases is to be more prone to error.
The pope speaks of "when the attitude is no longer one
of service." We need to be honest with ourselves. Is
our questioning for the sake of serving God's people, or serving
our own preferences and priorities? Is our bureaucratic directives
for the sake of getting things to move more smoothly and effectively,
or for control and power?
Third, the pope talks of holiness. “Holiness means a
life immersed in the Spirit, a heart open to God, constant
prayer, deep humility and fraternal charity in our relationships
with our fellow workers.” Then he also says holiness
“means conscientious objection to gossip!” How
often indeed do God’s people engage in gossip, in household
meetings, in fellowship with brethren, in governance meetings.
While we may need to talk about people in certain circumstances
in our meetings, what we need to avoid is being judgmental,
maligning, unnecessarily critical.
The Spirit is bringing us today to new dimensions that are
challenging. I truly believe we are on the verge of explosive
grace-filled work, in the spirit of the New Evangelization.
Let us open up our hearts with childlike faith, which is what
will enable us to really see.
Monday, December 23, 2013
THE POPE TO THE ROMAN CURIA: PROFESSIONALISM, SERVICE AND
HOLINESS IN LIFE
Vatican City, 21 December 2013 (VIS) –
During the final days of Advent, the Holy Father traditionally
meets with the cardinals, superiors and officials of the Roman
Curia to exchange Christmas greetings. Today this took place
for the first time during the pontificate of Pope Francis,
Bishop of Rome, who warmly thanked all his collaborators and
in particular Archbishop Pietro Parolin, who “recently
began his service as Secretary of State, and who needs our
The Holy Father thanked the Curia for “the work which
you do each day: for the care, diligence and creativity which
you display; and for your effort – I know it is not
always easy – to work
together in the office, both to listen to and challenge one
another, and to bring out the best in all your different personalities
and gifts, in a spirit of mutual respect”.
He also expressed his particular gratitude those now concluding
their service and approaching retirement.
“As priests and bishops, we know full well that we never
really retire, but we do leave the office, and rightly so,
not least to devote ourselves a little more to prayer and
the care of souls, starting with our own!” he remarked.
So a very special and heartfelt 'thank you' goes to those
of you who have worked here for so many years with immense
dedication, hidden from the eyes of the world. ... I have
such high regard for these 'Monsignori' who are cut from the
same mould as the curiales of olden times, exemplary persons
… We need them today, too! People who work with competence,
precision and self-sacrifice in the fulfillment of their daily
duties. Here I would like to mention some of them by name,
as a way of expressing my esteem and my gratitude, but we
know that, in any list, the first names people notice are
the ones that are missing! Besides, I would also risk overlooking
someone and thus committing an injustice and a lack of charity.
But I want to say to these brothers of ours that they offer
a very important witness in the Church’s journey through
Based on this model and this witness, Pope Francis went on
to speak about the two crucial
qualities that should characterise the curial
official, and, in particular, curial superiors: professionalism
a “basic requisite for working in the Curia”,
means “competence, study,
keeping abreast of things. … Naturally,
professionalism is something which develops, and is in part
acquired; but I think that, precisely for it to develop and
to be acquired, there has to be a good foundation from the
The second hallmark is “service
to the Pope and to the bishops, to the universal Church and
to the particular Churches. In the Roman Curia, one learns
– in a real way, 'one breathes in' – this twofold
aspect of the Church, this interplay of the universal and
the particular. I think that this is one of the finest experiences
of those who live and work in Rome: 'to sense' the Church
in this way. When professionalism is lacking, there is a slow
drift downwards towards mediocrity. Dossiers become full of
trite and lifeless information, and incapable of opening up
Then too, when the attitude
is no longer one of service to the particular
Churches and their bishops, the structure of the Curia turns
into a ponderous, bureaucratic customs house, constantly inspecting
and questioning, hindering the working of the Holy Spirit
and the growth of God’s people”.
To these two qualities, the Pope added a third: “holiness
of life”, which is “in the hierarchy
of values, … the most important” as it provides
the basis for “the quality of our work, our service.
And I would like to say that here, in the Curia, there have
been and there are holy men. I have said this publicly on
more than one occasion, to give thanks to God. Holiness
means a life immersed in the Spirit, a heart open to God,
constant prayer, deep humility and fraternal charity in our
relationships with our fellow workers. It also means apostleship,
discreet and faithful pastoral service, zealously carried
out in direct contact with God’s people.
For priests, this is indispensable”.
“Holiness , in the Curia, also means conscientious
objection to gossip! We rightfully insist
on the importance of conscientious objection, but perhaps
we too need to exercise it as a means of defending ourselves
from an unwritten law of our surroundings, which unfortunately
is that of gossip. So let us all be conscientious objectors;
and mind you, I am not simply preaching! Gossip
is harmful to people, our work and our surroundings.
“Dear brothers and sisters”, concluded Pope Francis,
“let us feel close to one another on this final stretch
of the road to Bethlehem. We would do well to meditate on
Saint Joseph, who was so silent yet so necessary at the side
of Our Lady. Let us think about him and his loving concern
for his Spouse and for the Baby Jesus. This can tell us a
lot about our own service to the Church! So let us experience
this Christmas in spiritual closeness to Saint Joseph. I thank
you most heartily for your work and especially for your prayers.
Truly I feel 'borne aloft' by your prayers and I ask you to
continue to support me in this way. I too remember you before
the Lord, and I impart my blessing as I offer my best wishes
for a Christmas filled with light and peace for each of you
and for all your dear ones”.