Pope Francis’ reform of the Vatican has already begun.
Not in the way the world was expecting, through high-profile appointments of Roman Curia heads – though that will come in due time.
Instead, the pope has embarked immediately on what might be called “re-evangelization” inside the Vatican walls.
He dropped in today after a Vatican employees’ Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and spoke about the value of work, thanking them for their service and asking them for their prayers because “I am a sinner, too.”
This morning, celebrating Mass for a smaller group of Vatican employees and officials at the Vatican guest house, he gave a short homily on the destructive power of gossip. He said speaking ill of others is a “dark joy” that Christians should resist.
At other liturgies inside the Vatican – attended by everyone from Vatican City garbage-collectors to bank employees – the new pope has spoken about the need for people to open their hearts to those around them and show charity in everything they do.
Even in what might be considered his most formal speech to an audience that included Vatican higher-ups, an address March 15 to cardinals, he emphasized that their friendship and sense of unity rely in great part on “a climate of mutual openness.”
Pope Francis came into the Vatican with a mandate to change the way its bureaucracy functions (or disfunctions), in the wake of scandals, leaks and power struggles that have embarrassed the church. It seems to me that he’s taking that task seriously, by laying the spiritual groundwork for change.
He’s approaching the various Vatican environments not so much as the new boss, but as the new pastor.
I think that’s one big reason why he’s decided to continue to live in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guest house, instead of moving into the formal papal apartment. In the Domus, he’s a few steps away from St. Peter’s, as well as the Vatican City governor’s office, and his morning liturgies are accessible to Vatican employees.
In the Apostolic Palace, the pope would have been surrounded by Secretariat of State offices and the usual filters. In effect, the Domus provides a much better pastoral base for evangelizing the Vatican.