Pope Francis opened his address as follows:
Vi chiedo scusa di non parlare in piedi, ma da alcuni giorni sono sotto l’influsso dell’influenza e non mi sento molto forte. Con il vostro permesso, vi parlo seduto.Or, in the English translation:
Forgive me for not standing up as I speak to you, but for some days I’ve been suffering from a cold and not feeling too well. With your permission, I’ll speak to you sitting down.The "effects of influenza" in Italian have become "suffering from a cold", and "I do not feel very strong" has become "not feeling too well" in the English.
Pope Francis offered his Christmas greetings to his audience, to their co-workers in the service of the Curia and to their families:
I am pleased to offer heartfelt good wishes for a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year to you and your co-workers, to the Papal Representatives, and in particular to those who in the past year have completed their service and retired. Let us also remember all those who have gone home to God. My thoughts and my gratitude go to you and to the members of your families.After referring to his two previous meetings with the Curia on the occasion of Christmas, Pope Francis observed (the "diseases" being a reference to his "catalogue of temptations" of last year's address - and do remember that that catalogue was offered as an examination of conscience in preparation for the celebration of Christmas, with a clear sense of self-inclusion on the part of the Holy Father):
.... diseases and even scandals cannot obscure the efficiency of the services rendered to the Pope and to the entire Church by the Roman Curia, with great effort, responsibility, commitment and dedication, and this is a real source of consolation. Saint Ignatius taught that “it is typical of the evil spirit to instil remorse, sadness and difficulties, and to cause needless worry so as to prevent us from going forward; instead, it is typical of the good spirit to instil courage and energy, consolations and tears, inspirations and serenity, and to lessen and remove every difficulty so as to make us advance on the path of goodness.”
It would be a grave injustice not to express heartfelt gratitude and needed encouragement to all those good and honest men and women in the Curia who work with dedication, devotion, fidelity and professionalism, offering to the Church and the Successor of Peter the assurance of their solidarity and obedience, as well as their constant prayers.
Moreover, cases of resistance, difficulties and failures on the part of individuals and ministers are so many lessons and opportunities for growth, and never for discouragement. They are opportunities for returning to the essentials, which means being ever more conscious of ourselves, of God and our neighbours, of the sensus Ecclesiae and the sensus fidei.The central part of Pope Francis' address was then dedicated to an acrostic of the Latin word for mercy, Misericordia, using each letter of the word to indicate a virtue or strength that might be emulated by those who work in the Curia. Pope Francis cites Fr Matteo Ricci, the Jesuit missionary to the Far East, as having done the same thing. I have not yet tracked down Fr Ricci's text, but it may be interesting to place it alongside Pope Francis' address.
[It is Pope Francis' fifth section, entitled in Italian as "Razionalità e amabilità" and in English as "Reasonableness and gentleness" where I feel there is some difference in nuance between the Italian original and the English translation, and perhaps some loss of the essential point being made, namely that an equilibrium is needed between rationality and friendliness in our dealings with others.]
Needless to say, those same virtues or strengths might well be addressed to each and every Catholic whatever their state of life or form of work. Though addressed immediately to the Curia, I think we should take them as addressed to the whole Church, perhaps particularly to those who hold some form of ecclesial office, but also to the lay faithful who could emulate these virtues and strengths in their places of work. Do read them all.
I finish, not with the prayer that Pope Francis cited, but with his citation of St Augustine, earlier in the address:
Christmas is truly the feast of God’s infinite mercy, as Saint Augustine of Hippo tells us: “Could there have been any greater mercy shown to us unhappy men than that which led the Creator of the heavens to come down among us, and the Creator of the earth to take on our mortal body? That same mercy led the Lord of the world to assume the nature of a servant, so that, being himself bread, he would suffer hunger; being himself satiety, he would thirst; being himself power, he would know weakness; being himself salvation, he would experience our woundedness, and being himself life, he would die. All this he did to assuage our hunger, alleviate our longing, strengthen our weaknesses, wipe out our sins and enkindle our charity”.