Pope Francis speaks to us

In what is normally an offering of Christmas greetings, Pope Francis unexpectedly criticised the ills of bureaucracy and power-mongering.

A few short days before Christmas Day, Pope Francis delivered a landmark speech during his customary address to those who run the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church – the Vatican.  The 78-year-old Pontiff was speaking to the Cardinals and Bishops who govern and administer the Church. He spoke about the ailments and the warnings of such governance but he could easily have been addressing the world’s leaders as most of the issues he raised apply to all of us.

In what is normally an offering of Christmas greetings, Pope Francis unexpectedly criticised the ills of bureaucracy and power-mongering. He said that there was too much micro-management and too little co-ordination. He presented a list of ailments, denouncing the ‘pathology of power’, and he particularly criticised the ‘terrorism of gossip’ as being a sickness of cowardly people who do not have the courage to speak directly. He also referred to those who use their powers to discredit others, even in newspapers and magazines, as people who have a sickness of showing off.

None of these so-called ‘sins’ are exclusive to Vatican leaders, they are far too common among non-spiritual leaders of the world.

Pope Francis listed 15 ailments, most of which serve as a warning to all those who govern and administer society in general. In fact, the Pope has set out to reform the Vatican’s civil service and he has emphasised that we should rid ourselves of the ‘disease’ of feeling ‘immortal and essential’.  He clearly said that these maladies are a danger for any administrative organisation.

While referring to a Curia that doesn’t criticise and update itself as a sick body, it is clear that such self-assessment and critique is essential to any good governance. He advocates co-ordination among leaders to ensure a more humanitarian approach towards social inclusion.

The Pope spoke about ‘Spiritual Alzheimer’s’ but this is also applicable to ‘Political Alzheimer’s’ wherein some politicians govern for themselves rather than their people. Sometimes we tend to give too much attention to obtaining power and too little to the use of that power for the good of the country. We cannot lose contact with the people and this is why it is important to keep in touch with the people’s needs and wants.

His Holiness said that people who court their superiors with the intention of progression in their work are victims of careerism and opportunism. Again, this is definitely one of the problems that we encounter in our daily life. We must stop being indifferent to others and try to help and encourage those that need our help rather than enjoying other people’s misfortunes.

Pope Francis also spoke about the dangers of forming closed circles that seek to be stronger than the whole. “This sickness always starts with good intentions but as times go by, it enslaves its members by becoming a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body and causes so much bad scandals especially to our younger brothers,” he said.

We have much to learn from Pope Francis. Although he was addressing the Princes of the Church, his speech is a most valid communiqué to all those who govern and lead in the name of the people. Let us hope that in the New Year we can deal with the issues raised, heed these warnings and work together towards a reform that will provide our peoples with better lives and understanding.