Pope Francis’ speech to the Curia and the topicality of one of Cardinal Giovanni Benelli’s last homilies
Andrea Tornielli Taken from Vatican Insider
The words on the 15 ‘diseases’ of the Curia, which Pope Francis spoke last 22nd December, have been broadcast in the whole world and provoked many reactions and discussions. On her blog, within the La Croix website, Isabelle de Gaulmyn, talks about the ‘spiritual reform’ requested by Pope Francis. In this regard, She recalled the harsh words by Bernard of Clairvaux on the Roman Curia of his time. Many observers have noticed, in the last months, how the biggest ‘resistance’ to Pope Francis comes not from without, but from within the Church.
It is worth quoting here one of Benedict XVI’s most forgotten statements, because they were uncomfortable and, above all, not applicable to the false cliché of the ‘fighting Pope’, only concerned with his condemnation of the relativist drifts in the world. Namely, the words he spoke in the press conference in May 2010, during the flight from Rome to Lisbon. Benedict XVI said that ‘the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from outside enemies, but is born out of the sin within the Church, so the Church has a deep need to re-learn penitence and accept purification’. At the time, the crisis of the scandal of paedophile priests was at its peak, and Benedict, who was fighting it with all his might, particularly referred to that. But there is no doubt that his ‘penitential’ Church, which sees itself as needy of forgiveness and purification, was not liked by the most popular interpreters of his pontificate.
At the same time, the words spoken by Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, few days before his death, also seem enlightening. It was the 8th October 1982, and the former Substitute for the Holy See under Paul VI, was speaking to the seminarists of the dioceses of Florence. He said, ‘who are the opponents? Let us think well, who are the biggest opponents of Jesus? They are the religious, those who most abide by God’s word… Religion was the great obstacle that Christ found on earth. It is religion, religious men, who in the end sent him to die. The opposition comes from the closest people rather than the furthest. The opposition, the resistance that the Gospel finds, is actually strongest, more deeply rooted and more enduring in our own home than it is outside’.
Benelli also described the ‘men who have settled in the Church, they have found their means of fulfilment in the Church, be they bishops, priests, baptised. They have settled and they are the biggest and most effective opponents to the newness of the Gospel, the repeated newness, that needs to repeat itself forever, it must resurface as news and must of course offend the sensibilities of those who are now seated, those who are well settled in the Church…’
The cardinal added that ‘it is people who observe, claim to observe, think that they are following God’s commandments, but in the end, they do not serve the Church, they serve themselves. They use the Church and protect their laziness, they protect interests which they might not be fully aware of, but they protect themselves, their own point of view’.
The Florentine cardinal, a diplomat and the undisputed protagonist of the Vatican scene in the 70s, concluded that ‘it is not the opponents, not the ideologies against Christianity, not those who are on the other side, they are not the great enemies. The biggest enemies are the Christians who have settled, who have built their own version of religion…’