Pope Francis has described careerism as a “leprosy” in an address to future diplomats.
Addressing members of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which is dedicated to training priests to serve in the diplomatic corps and the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, he said: “Careerism is leprosy! Leprosy! Please, no careerism!”
Pope Francis continued: “For this reason, each of you must be willing to integrate your vision of the Church, however legitimate, every personal idea or assessment, within the horizons seen by Peter, of his particular mission at the service of communion and the unity of the flock of Christ, of his pastoral charity which embraces the whole world, and that, thanks also to the action of the Pontifical diplomatic service, wishes to make itself present especially in those places, often forgotten, where the needs of the Church and of humanity are greatest.”
The Pope reminded students that they must nurture a deep spiritual life in order to attain the “inner freedom” that is necessary for their future work. He said: “Have great care for the spiritual life, which is the source of inner freedom. Without prayer, there is no interior freedom. You can make a precious treasure of the instruments of conforming your priestly spirituality to Christ Himself, cultivating a life of prayer and making your daily work the gymnasium of your sanctification.”
Pope Francis went on to praise Bless John XXII. He said: “Here I am happy to recall the figure of Blessed John XXIII, the fiftieth anniversary of whose death we celebrated a few days ago: his work in the Pontifical diplomatic service was one of the places, and not the least significant, in which his sanctity was formed. Rereading his writings, one is impressed by the care he always took in guarding his soul, in the midst of the most varied ecclesial and political occupations. Here was born his inner freedom, the joy that he conveyed outwardly, and the effectiveness of his pastoral and diplomatic action.
“As he said in his Journal of a Soul, ‘the more mature I become in years and in experience, the more I recognize that the surest means for my personal sanctification and for the greater success of my service to the Holy See, remains the vigilant effort to reduce everything – principles, speeches, positions, affairs, to the greatest simplicity and calmness; in my vineyard, always to prune that which is simply useless foliage . . . and to go directly to that which is truth, justice, charity, above all charity. Any other [way] of doing things, is nothing but posturing and grasping at personal affirmation, which betrays itself and becomes cumbersome and ridiculous.’ (Cinisello Balsamo 2000, p. 497).
“He wanted to prune his vineyard: to chase out the foliage, to prune. . . And some years later, joined to the end of his work in the Pontifical diplomatic service, when he was already Patriarch of Venice, he wrote, ‘Now I find myself completely in the ministry of souls. Truly I have always held that for an ecclesiastic, diplomacy, so to say, should always be permeated by a pastoral spirit; otherwise, it counts for nothing, and makes a holy mission ridiculous’ (ibid., pp. 513-14).”
Pope Francis added: “But this is important! Listen well: When in the Nunciature there is a secretary or a nuncio that doesn’t go along the way of sanctity, and gets involved in so many forms, in so many kinds of spiritual worldliness, he looks ridiculous, and everyone laughs at him! Please don’t be ridiculous: either [be] saints or go back to the diocese and be a pastor, but don’t be ridiculous in the diplomatic [service], in the diplomatic live, where there is so much danger of becoming worldly in spirituality.”