“Some of the cardinals, bishops and priests who run the Roman Catholic Church suffer from a “spiritual Alzheimer’s””, so said Pope Francis in his Christmas address (2014) What a starter for this season of songs, smiles and good cheer right?
Now, I am familiar with Christmas messages which revolved around the universal feel-good theme of love, joy and peace - decking the hall with boughs of jolly holly and all that. But this is crazy. It’s too radical. It’s just raw honesty. He’s nuts. The Pope has Popped!
Well, the Vatican head is actually not done yet – no way Hosea. He asked everyone, himself included to submit to "an evangelical mea culpa (via my fault).” He even said that he was playing the tough guy (like the good cop/bad cop routine in an interrogation).
The report further reads, “In his annual speech, Pope Francis warned against what he called a lust for power, hypocritical double lives and the lack of spiritual empathy among some men of God” and he invited his leaders to a “true self-examination” ahead of Christmas. Obviously this Argentinian Jesuit dynamo, who still listens to cassette tapes, has got his Papal tiara all decked up in a Spartan-like hall with boughs of un-jolly.
Mind you, this is the man who currently leads the Catholic Church, which endorsed Papal Infallibility (ex cathedra). This means that his office and authority once claimed to be of divine origin and he has the final word on scripture – the authority on Biblical interpretation.
Although his Christmas message (or tongue-lashing) is not exactly ex cathedra (it may as well be so), it certainly got their attention by a chokehold when he “criticized the Curia for a “narcissistic pathology of power” and “existential schizophrenia.”” I am sure Pope Pius IX will be turning over in his grave now!
In case you think the Pope is finished, here is more of the in-your-face Christmas speech as reported: “The “ailment of close circles”, he added, “enslaves their members and becomes a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body. Including himself among the sinners, the first Latin American pontiff stressed once more his idea of a Church at the service of the poor and the peripheries, a religious institution able to move away from scandals, in-fighting, and lavish behavior.” A cancer that threatens the harmony of the body – the close circles of bishops and priests? – what an indictment!
After the speech, the Pope asked the members to pardon his shortcomings and those of his collaborators. The strong attack on the Vatican bureaucracy ended with shocked silence. I guess it is really “silent night” for many in the Vatican.
Wow, a Christmas service where the leaders (starting with the Pope) are asking for forgiveness from their flock! Isn't this the epitome of the basin and towel ministry? Isn't this the reason for the season? Isn't Pope Francis leading all to come humbly before the foot of Calvary?
Lesson? In the eyes of the world, Pope Francis was surely out of his mind. He has lost it big time. He is turning the tables of the festive tradition upside down.
Alas, Pope Francis has counted the cost and it was worth it. I have a feeling he regrets nothing of what he has done. The good shepherd may be in this world but he is definitely not of this world. His Christmas address dealt with what really matters this season and for all season. Ultimately, it is about us, our brokenness, our redemption, and the love of God at Calvary. It is surely not about what we are hiding behind this season - the riches, the streamers and glitters, the Christmas decor, the jingle bells, the gifts, the ham and the buffet spread.
I recall when Jesus was questioned by Pilate about his offences, he replied, “My kingdom is not of this world…But my kingdom is from another place.” I suspect Pope Francis was speaking about that Kingdom - that place where true transformation ultimately prevails. It is the veritable wounded hearts of humanity.
This Christmas message is indeed refreshing, radical and out-of-this-world. He didn’t mince his words. He gave it his heart, soul and spirit. He spoke with unsurpassed humility and yet with authentic authority. Pope Francis has brought the Church back 2000 years when Simon Peter first fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” And Jesus replied, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fisher of men.”
Now that is the true purpose of the Church and it is also the reason why Jesus died for her in the first place. Have a beautiful Christmas - one marked by humility and unconditional love. Cheerz.