Reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, the environment and the protection of religious minorities will be high on Pope Francis’ agenda for 2015.
In addresses over the Christmas period he gave a strong indication of what his primary concerns will be in the coming year.
Cardinals are still reeling from the Pope’s condemnation of the Roman Curia three days before Christmas. In an uncompromising address the Pope put aside traditional pleasantries and berated his audience with a list of no fewer than 15 spiritual “illnesses and temptations” of which he found some or all guilty.
Archbishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said that the Curia was taken by surprise by Francis’ severe words. He told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera: “I suppose what was expected was a Christmas greeting, a festive atmosphere – and instead the Holy Father asked us demanding spiritual questions and wrong-footed us all a bit.”
Cardinal Walter Kasper, who championed reforms at last October’s extraordinary Synod on the Family, and is likely to do so again in October this year in the Ordinary Synod, told the same newspaper, “The Pope has asked us for an examination of conscience. It’s not my business to say anything about others. If there was criticism each person must evaluate it in their own conscience.”
He added: “Of course the structural reforms are necessary and he is working on this. But the fundamental problem is spiritual.”
Cardinal Sean O'Malley said that Francis had the “support” of the cardinal electors, many of whom had wanted a pope who would not be afraid to tackle their concerns about the central administration of the Holy See.
The Pope’s next consistory, at which he will create new cardinals, has been set for 14-15 February, following meetings of the new papal commission on sexual abuse of minors and the “C9” group of cardinal-advisers tasked with enacting curial reform.
Meanwhile in his messages and homilies over the Christmas period, Pope Francis gave a powerful indication of what his other chief concerns will be in 2015.
In his Christmas Eve and Christmas Day homilies and in a special letter to displaced Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria, he spoke up for the victims of conflict, the persecuted, and the abandoned, especially children and the elderly.
In addition, Francis’ much-anticipated encyclical on the environment is due to be published next year.
Fr Séan McDonagh, an ecologist, theologian and author writing in this week’s edition of The Tablet, predicted that this encyclical could build a groundswell of support for a legally binding treaty at the next UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.
He said the encyclical would develop “a credible theology of creation”.
“This is not as easy as might appear, because it means taking seriously modern sciences as part of the architecture for such a theology, something that Rome has not done to date,” he wrote.
He predicted that this new theology might move the Church beyond a purely biblical, anthropocentric (human-centered) vision of creation.
“What I am suggesting here involves a Copernican-like revolution,” he said.
Above: Pope Francis waves as he arrives to deliver Christmas blessing 'urbi et orbi' at Vatican. Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring