Pope to Roman Curia: ‘Only those who love go forward’

In his annual address to the Roman Curia for the exchange of Christmas Greetings, Pope Francis issues an invitation to listen, discern, and journey, never losing sight of Christ’s call to be merciful, loving, and courageous.

By Linda Bordoni

Pope Francis’s Christmas greetings to the Curia resonated with the spirit of the ongoing Synodal process, which asks the Church to listen, discern, and walk together with the faithful so that everyone can participate in the dynamism of missionary communion.

Addressing members of the Roman Curia in the Vatican on Thursday morning, the Pope began his address highlighting the importance of listening.

Listening with the heart

He drew attention to the exemplary model of the Virgin Mary, and urged those present  to listen not only with their ears but with their hearts, echoing the wisdom of Saint Benedict who speaks of listening with “the ear of your heart.”

Mary’s open-hearted reception of the angel’s message, he said, serves as a reminder that true listening involves an interior openness that goes beyond mere exchange of information “because more important than any precept is our need to enter into a relationship with God by accepting the gift of the love that he comes to bring us.“

“More important than any precept is our need to enter into a relationship with God by accepting the gift of the love that he comes to bring us.”

The Pope went on to emphasize the significance of humility in listening and said, “There is no better way to listen than ‘on our knees’.”

This humble posture, he explained, shows a willingness to set aside preconceived notions and prejudices, allowing us to truly understand the desires and needs of others.

Warning against the temptation to be like “hungry wolves,” who devour words without genuine understanding, Pope Francis said that “really listening to another person requires an interior quiet and making room for silence between what we hear and what we say.”

Thus, he encouraged members of the Curia to nurture a culture of listening that transcends daily tasks and positions, giving value to relationships and maintaining an evangelical spirit marked by the ability to listen sincerely and without judgment.

“Brothers and sisters, in the Curia too, we need to learn the art of listening. Even more important than our daily tasks and responsibilities, or even the positions we hold, is our need to appreciate the value of relationships,“ he said.

Discernment

Moving to the second word, discernment, the Pope recalled the story of John the Baptist. Despite the apostle’s powerful preaching, he said, he experiences a crisis of faith when confronted with the unexpected mercy and compassion of Jesus.

The Baptist, the Holy Father said, realizes that he needs to discern, so as to receive fresh eyes.“

“In a word, Jesus was not what people had expected, and even the Precursor had to be converted to the newness of the Kingdom. He had to have the humility and courage needed to discern,“ he said.

Discernment, the Pope explained, is necessary in our spiritual journey, as it cautions against the rigid application of rules without a deep understanding of God’s will.

“Discernment is important for all of us.”

Discernment, he continued, frees us from the illusion of omniscience and challenges the temptation to perpetuate familiar patterns.

”It is a burst of love that distinguishes between good and better, between what is helpful in itself and what is helpful here and now, between what may be good in general and what needs to be done now,” he said.

“Discernment is a burst of love that distinguishes between what is good and what is better.”

”Discernment ought to help us, even in the work of the Curia, to be docile to the Holy Spirit, to choose procedures and make decisions based not on worldly criteria, or simply by applying rules, but in accordance with the Gospel,“ the Pope explained.

Journey

The final word, journeying, the Pope said, is illustrated through the story of the Magi, who remind us of the “importance of journeying.”

Pope Francis said that embracing the joy of the Gospel leads to discipleship, and calls us to embark on a journey toward the encounter with the Lord.

“He sends us on a journey, draws us out of our comfort zones, our complacency about what we have already done, and in this way, he sets us free; he changes us and he enlightens the eyes of our heart to make us understand the great hope to which he has called us,“ he said.

And warning against the dangers of fear, rigidity, and monotony, which lead to immobility and a failure to see the constant newness of God’s calling, the Pope said the Curia is called to pursue a constant search for truth and an openness to growth.

“In our service here in the Curia too, it is important to keep faring forward, to keep searching and growing in our understanding of the truth, overcoming the temptation to stand still and never leave the ‘labyrinth’ of our fears,“ he added.

He urged those present to avoid the trap of bureaucracy and mediocrity, and to remain vigilant against “rigid ideological positions” that separate us from reality and prevent us from moving forward.

The journey, like that of the Magi, he said, always begins “from above,” guided by the call of the Lord and the illumination of God’s word.

Call to love and humility

Pope Francis concluded with a call to courage, love, and humility in our journey of faith and service.

Sharing an anecdote about a “zealous priest” he acknowledged that it is not easy “to rekindle the embers under the ashes of the Church.“

“Today we strive to kindle passion in those who have long since lost it.  Sixty years after the Council, we are still debating the division between ‘progressives’ and ‘conservatives,’ while the real difference is between lovers and those who have lost that initial passion. That is the difference. Only those who love fare forward,” he said.

“Only those who love fare forward.”

“Thank you,“ Pope Francis said, “especially for all the work that you do in silence  Listening, discerning, journeying.” And he invoked the Lord to grant the grace to rejoice in humble and generous service: “Please, may we never lose our sense of humour!”