ROME (AP) — Pope Francis urged Vatican cardinals, bishops and bureaucrats Thursday to embrace humility this Christmas season, saying their pride, self-interest and the “glitter of our armor” was perverting their spiritual lives and corrupting the church’s mission.
As he has in the past, Francis used his annual Christmas address to take Vatican administrators to task for their perceived moral and personal failings, denouncing in particular those pride-filled clerics who “rigidly” hide behind Catholic Church traditions rather than seek out the neediest with humility.
Cardinals and bishops were as silent today as in years past while Francis gave them lectures in the Hall of Blessings. It was also decorated in festive poinsettias (jolly twinkling Christmas trees)
“The humble are those who are concerned not simply with the past but also with the future, since they know how to look ahead, to spread their branches, remembering the past with gratitude,” Francis told them. “The proud, on the other hand, simply repeat, grow rigid and enclose themselves in that repetition, feeling certain about what they know and fearful of anything new because they cannot control it.”
According to the pontiff, proud people who look inwardly are obsessed with their personal interests.
“As a consequence, they neither learn from their sins nor are they genuinely open to forgiveness. It is an act of great corruption masquerading as a benefit. We need to avoid it,” he added.
Francis used his Christmas address since becoming pope in 2013 rail against the Curia, as the Holy See’s bureaucracy is known, denouncing the “spiritual Alzheimer’s” that some members suffer and the resistance he had encountered to his efforts to reform Revitalize the institution as well as the wider Catholic Church.
These reforms were in full swing this year. some of the top Catholic hierarchy bore the brunt as Francis ordered a 10% pay cut for cardinals, imposed a 40-euro ($45) gift cap for Holy See personnel and passed a law allowing cardinals and bishops to be criminally prosecuted by the Vatican’s own tribunal.
Francis also added Christmas greetings to the mix by publicly browbeating Vatican clerics. These clerics are normally treated with respect by their subordinates and the general public.
Francis told them to stop hiding behind the “armor” of their titles and to recognize that they, like the Biblical figure of Naaman, a wealthy and decorated general, were lepers in need of healing.
“The story of Naaman reminds us that Christmas is the time when each of us needs to find the courage to take off our armor, discard the trappings of our roles, our social recognition and the glitter of this world and adopt the humility of Naaman,” he said.
Francis also repeated his call for tradition-minded clerics to stop living in the past, saying their obsession with old doctrine and liturgy concealed a “spiritual worldliness” that was corrupting.
“Seeking those kinds of reassurance is the most perverse fruit of spiritual worldliness, for it reveals a lack of faith, hope and love; it leads to an inability to discern the truth of things,” he said.
Francis took the biggest step to reign in the traditionalist wing in 2007 when he imposed restrictions on the celebration of the Latin Mass, which Pope Benedict XVI had lifted in 2007.
These restrictions were intensified by the introduction of a set of new rules last weekend that prohibits publication of Tridentine Mass times even in parish bulletins.
Francis said the proud who remain stuck in the past, “enclosed in their little world, have neither past nor future, roots or branches, and live with the bitter taste of a melancholy that weighs on their hearts as the most precious of the devil’s potions.”
“All of us are called to humility, because all of us are called to remember and to give life. It is our responsibility to establish a healthy relationship with our roots as well as our branches. Without those two things, we become sick, destined to disappear,” he warned.