In his traditional Christmas speech, Pope Francis hit pause on his criticism of social inequality to turn inward, telling Catholic bishops and priests to play nice in the school cafeteria and check their Mean Girls attitudes at the door.
Delivering his first of such speeches to the Roman Curia, Pope Francis sounded more CEO than religious leader, thanking everyone for a good year and also taking a minute to remind them of the company code of conduct, a "holiness of life" expected out of each Catholic priest:
Holiness in the Curia also means conscientious objection to gossip! We rightfully insist on the importance of conscientious objection but perhaps we, too, need to exercise it as a means of defending ourselves from an unwritten law of our surroundings, which unfortunately is that of gossip. So let us all be conscientious objectors; and mind you, I am not simply preaching! Gossip is harmful to people, our work and our surroundings.
In short: Gossiping is, like, totally uncool, you leaders of a major religion.
The mention of priestly etiquette comes in the same week as a significant reshuffling of top Vatican posts, with arch-conservative Cardinal Raymond Burke among those losing key titles. Burke then proceeded to cast his cut-eye at the pontiff on US news networks for daring to hope for change in the Church:
The service of the Roman Curia is part of the very nature of the church, and so that has to be respected. I can't imagine that somehow the Roman Curia is going to take on a completely different figure. It just doesn't make sense.
Over the nine months of his papacy, Pope Francis has made international headlines for his views on external world matters – on poverty, on capitalism, on relations between Jewish and Muslim faiths – earning fans as well as critics, who believe he has taken stances on matters where religious leaders don't belong. However, the Christmas missive shows signs that the difficult task of in-house reform the pope hopes to helm will not take a back seat to his global interests. When he first arrived, Pope Francis said that he wanted a less bureaucratic and more pastoral, useful church, and has called for more women to be involved with the cloth.
The Christmas speech to the Curia is seen as a major standard-bearer for the year to come. Pope Benedict XVI's Christmas speech last year made clear his beliefs on the sanctity of the traditional family, dismissing gender theory.