Canon Brian McCluskey (third from left) with his fellow priests including Monsignor Ambrose Macaulay (right)  Photo: Fr Hugh Clifford

Canon Brian McCluskey (third from left) with his fellow priests including Monsignor Ambrose Macaulay (right) Photo: Fr Hugh Clifford


Michael Fisher  Northern Standard  Carrickmacross News  Thursday May 28th

Canon Brian McCluskey, a native of Inniskeen, has returned from Rome after celebrating the 55th anniversary of his ordination. The highlight of his return to Italy was to participate in a private Mass at the Vatican concelebrated by Pope Francis. They were joined by five other priests who were clerical students with Canon Brian at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome in 1960.

The other members of the group were Fr Kevin McMullan (Belfast); Monsignor Jim Kelly (Adare and Brooklyn); Fr Phil Doyle (Tarbert, County Kerry); Fr Brian Twomey SPS (Ashford, County Wicklow and Stirling) and Monsignor Ambrose Macaulay from Cushendall.

Canon McCluskey is a retired priest of the diocese of Clogher, now in his 80th year and living in South Belfast, where he assists the Parish Priest of St Brigid’s, Fr Eddie O’Donnell. Monsignor Macaulay was Fr O’Donnell’s predecessor and five years ago he celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination along with Canon McCluskey. The Mass in Belfast in 2010 was attended by the former Bishop of Clogher, Dr Joseph Duffy, who sent Canon Brian his good wishes on this latest milestone.

Canon McCluskey comes from Blackstaff in Inniskeen. The poet Patrick Kavanagh was a near neighbour. He is a former pupil of St Macartan’s College in Monaghan. After his ordination, he served as a curate in his home parish of Inniskeen from 1977 to 1983. He was a parish priest in Threemilehouse and later Roslea, during the troubles in the North.

He has met three canonised saints, including St Padre Pio and St John XXIII whom he visited while studying for the priesthood in Rome in the 1950s. He met another future saint, St John Paul II, on the occasion of his Silver Jubilee in 1985.


Canon Brian McCluskey  after Sunday Mass with Fr Eddie O'Donnell PP, St Brigid's Belfast Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Canon Brian McCluskey after Sunday Mass with Fr Eddie O’Donnell PP, St Brigid’s Belfast Photo: © Michael Fisher

Canon Brian McCluskey is a retired priest of the diocese of Clogher, now living in Belfast and assisting at St Brigid’s Parish. He is pictured with the Parish Priest of St Brigid’s, Fr Eddie O’Donnell, after Mass on Sunday and prior to his departure for Rome. This morning (Friday) Pope Francis concelebrated a private Mass at the Vatican with Canon McCluskey and five of his former student colleagues from the Pontifical Irish College in Rome, all of whom are celebrating the 55th anniversary of their ordinations. Canon McCluskey was joined by Fr Kevin McMullan (Belfast); Monsignor Ambrose Macaulay from Cushendall; Monsignor Jim Kelly (Adare and Brooklyn); Fr Phil Doyle (Tarbert) and Fr Brian Twomey SPS (Ashford and Stirling).


St Macartan's Cathedral. Monaghan  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

St Macartan’s Cathedral. Monaghan Photo: © Michael Fisher

Letter from Bishop Liam MacDaid to the priests and people of Clogher diocese invites discussions in advance of Vatican Synod on the Family

The Catholic Bishop of Clogher Dr Liam MacDaid has invited priests and parishioners of the diocese to take part in a diocesan-wide discussion in advance of the Synod on the Family in the Vatican in October on the theme ‘The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World”.

In a letter to the priests and people of the diocese Bishop MacDaid invites the faithful to walk with Pope Francis saying: “Pope Francis has encouraged us to be honest and frank as we walk with him and he has stated his wish to hear and listen carefully to all voices, even those who might consider themselves to be on or beyond the threshold of faith.  He has stated his wish to hear the voices of young married couples sharing their experiences of joys and sorrows and helping us to learn from both.  Pope Francis is inviting us, in a fuller way than many previous generations, to help him and all Church leaders in “the task of formulating the pastoral responses to the real situation of family life around the world” as it was expressed at last year’s Extraordinary Synod.” Bishop MacDaid asks, “How could we turn our backs to such a respectful and gracious invitation?”

In his letter Bishop MacDaid outlines the timeline for the discussions in the Diocese of Clogher, and introduces a new eight-person steering committee as well as a revision of Pastoral Areas from fourteen to seven to facilitate a speedier pace of work.

Bishop of Clogher, Dr Liam MacDaid Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Bishop of Clogher, Dr Liam MacDaid Photo: © Michael Fisher

The letter:

My dear friends,

Many of you may have taken an interest in the Extraordinary Synod on the Family which was held in Rome last autumn.  The questions which Pope Francis raised for discussion by our Church leaders were refreshingly honest and pertinent.  What he had to say found its way into our hearts and minds because family is common to us all.  The quality of our lives and the health of our relationships are very closely related to the kind of family life we succeed in making for ourselves.  Whatever damages the family hurts us all and whatever enriches family life is a blessing for us all.

We have a year now to reflect on all that was spoken at the Synod, and to assess the merit of arguments put forward.  The Irish Episcopal Conference has asked that work be done and done quickly to sift and assess the material from the Synod and pass forward our reflections in time for further consideration.  A summary of the content of all that was said last autumn has been put together in what are called Lineamenta.  Each diocese in our country is now asked to devise a means whereby the people of the diocese can have their say and make their contribution to the national and international debate.  Every diocese can make its contribution to the final outcome.  It is envisaged that this conversation will take place over the next two months and come to a conclusion at Easter time.

To assist us, the Secretariat of the Irish Episcopal Conference in Maynooth has put everything in order for us under different headings and has formulated questions for us to answer.  Pope Francis has encouraged us to be honest and frank as we walk with him and he has stated his wish to hear and listen carefully to all voices, even those who might consider themselves to be on or beyond the threshold of faith.  He has stated his wish to hear the voices of young married couples sharing their experiences of joys and sorrows and helping us to learn from both.

Pope Francis is inviting us, in a fuller way than many previous generations, to help him and all Church leaders in “the task of formulating the pastoral responses to the real situation of family life around the world” as it was expressed at last year’s Extraordinary Synod.  How could we turn our backs to such a respectful and gracious invitation?

In tackling the questions put before us, we are asked to share our experience of married and family life and to ask ourselves how well or how badly our local Church supports and provides pastoral care for married couples and families.  Such an examination should help us to strengthen and renew this pastoral care in such a way that the smiles that come from the pram and light up adult faces will always be there, moving everyone to say that life is good.

To assist with the task put before us I have asked eight people to act as a Steering Committee.  To facilitate a speedier pace of work, we have condensed our Pastoral Areas from fourteen into seven.  The first level of consultation will be to converse with the priests within these groupings.  The questions will be formulated by the Steering Committee who will facilitate the consultation process.  It will not be compulsory for each participant to read all the Lineamenta but it is to be hoped that most will read and reflect on the twenty or so pages which can be downloaded from: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/synod/index.htm

When the initial phase of consultation has been completed, the Steering Committee will move into a deeper and more comprehensive phase involving a small number of priests and religious and a much bigger number of lay people from all walks and corners of life.  To ensure that the process remains manageable the total number of participants involved in each cluster of pastoral areas will be approximately fifty.  This will include representatives of organisations and bodies which work closely with married couples and children.  The purpose of this restriction is certainly not to exclude.  It will be open to all groups and individuals to make a separate contribution of their own with the guarantee that it will be treated with the same care and respect as all other contributions that are submitted within the time limit which is Friday, 6 March next at 5.00pm.

Truly this is a rather special moment in history when the successor of Saint Peter humbly invites all the baptised to assist in finding solutions to pastoral problems.  Let us be grateful and grasp the opportunity, while we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in wisdom and love on our pilgrim way.

+Liam S. MacDaid

Dr MacDaid is Bishop of Clogher and Chair of the Bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family. The diocese has a Catholic population of 84,384 living in 37 parishes and 85 churches. It includes County Monaghan, most of County Fermanagh and portions of Counties Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan.

Steering Committee:

Chairperson:  Gary Carville, Castleblayney

Vice Chairperson: Noel Murphy, Monaghan

  Anne Balfe, Tydavnet

   Fr. John Chester, Monaghan

Fr. David Donnelly, Enniskillen

Sinead Cullen, Enniskillen

Deborah Lynch, Enniskillen

Claudine Marron, Monaghan

Pastoral Area Groupings for Consultation

1. Monaghan & Rackwalace, Kilmore & Drumsnat, Tyholland/Truagh, Donagh,Tydavnet.

2. Muckno, Clontibret /Tullycorbet, Lough Egish, Latton, Rockcorry.

3. Carrickmacross, Donaghmoyne /Inniskeen, Killanny, Magheracloone.

4. Clones, Killeevan, Roslea /Galloon, Aghalurcher.

5. Enniskillen, Tempo /Arney, Derrygonnelly.

6. Irvinestown, Ederney, Pettigo / Belleek-Garrison, Magh Ene.

7. Clogher, Eskra, Fivemiletown & Brookboro /Trillick, Dromore, Fintona


Desmond Fisher  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Desmond Fisher Photo: © Michael Fisher

Desmond Fisher 1920-2014

An appreciation (in The Irish Catholicic-logo

Michael Fisher

It was, my father said, the best news he heard in 50 years. Days before his death, I read him Pope Francis’ address to the Curia, outlining 15 diseases they suffered. He had a progressive view of the Catholic Church, inspired by the time he reported from Rome on Vatican II, where he made many friends including Belgian Cardinal Leo Suenens and theologian Fr Karl Rahner.

The Vatican II version of the Church, he pointed out, is a “communion” of members sharing a common task, rather than a pyramid structure. As Editor of The Catholic Herald, his authoritative coverage of Pope John XXIII’s initiative for change was widely praised in the English-speaking Catholic world. However, it annoyed Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin who found his articles “very objectionable”.

The conservative English hierarchy, led by Cardinal John Heenan, complained to the newspaper’s directors, who recalled him to London. His archive notes describe this as one of the bitterest blows of his life. It was, he said, a consolation that history seemed to have supported his version of Vatican II rather than the Cardinal’s.

He resigned from the paper and freelanced for a year. One of his tasks was to handle the copious media enquiries he received regarding Charles Davis. In December 1966 Fr Davis, then the best-known Catholic theologian in Britain, announced he was leaving the Church.

My father was proud of his roots in Derry, where he was born in 1920. His parents (a mixed marriage) moved to Dublin and aged 11, he won an all-Ireland scholarship for secondary schooling at Good Counsel College in New Ross, run by the Augustinians. He took the education, but decided the priesthood was “not for me”.


His knowledge of Irish, Greek and Latin was exceptional, and at 94 he had just completed a book, typed by himself on his laptop, containing a new translation of the Stabat Mater. It is due to be published by Gracewing later this month. With a BA from UCD, his first job, at age 25, was assistant to the editor of The Nationalist and Leinster Times, Liam Bergin, who became a lifelong friend. In 2011 he stepped down as Vice-Chairman of the same paper.

My first memories of my father are from the time he was London Editor of the Irish Press in Fleet Street. He acted as the Group’s Diplomatic Correspondent, and in 1960 spent three months covering the UN when Frank Aiken chaired the General Assembly. The same year he reported from the Congo on Irish soldiers on UN duty being held prisoner in Jadotville.

Desmond Fisher returned to Ireland in 1967 as RTÉ’s Deputy Head of News, joining fellow Derryman Jim McGuinness.

He later became Head of Current Affairs in RTÉ and after a second resignation on a point of principle was appointed Director of Broadcasting Development. He became involved in the birth of Raidió na Gaeltachta and later RTÉ2.

On retirement from RTÉ in 1983 he returned to Carlow as Editor and Managing Editor of The Nationalist until 1989. He was author of The Church in Transition, a book on the Vatican Council, Broadcasting in Ireland, The Right to Communicate and several pamphlets.

Michael Fisher is a journalist.


Des Fisher interviewed by John Bowman Sept. 2011 Photo: RTÉ

Des Fisher interviewed by John Bowman Sept. 2011 Photo: RTÉ

Desmond Fisher was not just a noted Catholic religious commentator. He was also a senior RTÉ executive during an important time in Irish history that saw the outbreak of the troubles in 1969. He was a former Head of Current Affairs and Deputy Head of News at RTÉ and died last week, aged 94. In this article specially written for RTÉ News Online, RTÉ’s Religious and Social Affairs Correspondent Joe Little looks back at his career… 

Mr Fisher was one of the last surviving journalists to have reported from Rome on the Second Vatican Council which ended half a century ago.

His family had asked that his passing on 30 December last should not be made public until after his cremation which, in accordance with his wishes, took place after a private family Requiem Mass was celebrated last Friday, 2 January.

In a document released by his family, he described his experiences as a senior editorial manager at RTÉ in the early years of the Northern Troubles as the most stressful time in his working life.

Before coming to broadcasting, Des as he was widely known, had worked on the Nationalist and Leinster Times and with the Irish Press where he served as London Editor and Political Correspondent.

In 1962, as Pope John XXXIII was convening the Second Vatican Council, he took the helm at the Catholic Herald in London.

A graduate of UCD, he belonged to a post-revolutionary generation of thinkers hungry to learn about the wider world and particularly about stirrings of change in the universal Catholic Church which were stifled by the hierarchy here, thanks largely to the ultra-conservative Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, who was appointed in 1940 when Des Fisher was 20 years old.

“It was alienating modern men and women and losing many existing members…”

Writing for this website two years ago, he described Pope John’s motivation in calling the Vatican Council which was to bring the Church face-to-face with the modern world: “He had seen that the Roman Catholic Church was not fulfilling the task for which Christ established it.

“Instead of motivating more and more new members to follow Christ and come to love and worship God, it was alienating modern men and women and losing many existing members.”

He described how most of the 2,500 Council Fathers or church leaders who favoured change had to reckon with a highly regimented traditionalist minority: “They took their lead from the Roman Curia, which was against change from beginning to end of the Council and is still opposed to implementing the Council’s decisions.

Desmond Fisher photo for RTÉ News Online article taken on his laptop Oct. 2012

Desmond Fisher photo for RTÉ News Online article taken on his laptop Oct. 2012

Despite the obstacles the Council produced five major documents.

Taken together, they portray a new kind of Catholic Church very different from the 16th century Counter-Reformation version that still prevails.

The Vatican II Church abandons the existing portrayal of the Church as a pyramid with the Pope on top of descending tiers of cardinals, bishops and priests sitting on a bottom layer of lay Catholics whose only function, as a bishop told the Council, seems to be “to pray, to obey and to pay”.

The Vatican II version of the Church is a “communion” of members sharing a common task to convince all the people of the world that God loves them and that Christ is the example of how to love and serve him.

In this Church lay people are not the passive onlookers they are seen as now but the most active workers at the coalface.”

Mr Fisher’s reference to the Curia’s ongoing opposition to reform foreshadowed the yet-to-be-elected Pope Francis’ scathing attack last month on Vatican’s administrators for being infected with careerism, scheming, greed and “spiritual Alzheimer’s”.

Not surprisingly, the veteran journalist welcomed the Argentine Popes election in 2013.

Des Fisher interviewed by John Bowman about RTÉ Sep. 28 2011 Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Des Fisher interviewed by John Bowman about RTÉ Sep. 28 2011 Photo: © Michael Fisher

Extracts relating to RTÉ from Desmond Fisher’s own summary of his 70-year career in journalism have been released by his family.

They recall that one year after the Council ended, he left the Catholic Herald and freelanced to support his family in London.

But 18 months later, his former Irish Press colleague and fellow Derry man Jim McGuinness, Head of News at RTÉ, suggested he should apply for a job, about to be advertised, as his deputy.

After short attachments with the BBC and ITV in London in 1967 he came to Dublin in early 1968 to take up the job and to live full-time with his family which had moved to Dublin months earlier.

In October 1973, he was appointed Head of the Current Affairs Grouping, a new area in RTÉ responsible for all current affairs programmes on radio and television.

He wrote of this period: “What I do remember most about my time in RTÉ is that it was the most stressful time in my working life. My time there coincided with external pressure on RTÉ from a Government intent on denying publicity to the IRA and internal conflict between RTÉ producers and journalists working on current affairs programmes.”

“It was probably inevitable that a disaster would occur…”

Those twin pressures soon took their toll: “In the circumstances of the time, however, it was probably inevitable that a disaster would occur. The Current Affairs area is the most vulnerable in broadcasting, especially in a public service organisation with staff of divided political and trade union loyalties at a time when the country is in turmoil.

“On the night of October 17, 1974 while I was in Galway at the Annual Conference of the Labour Party, a seven Days programme on internment in the North was rushed on to the air…replacing the programme which I had cleared for transmission. It later transpired that the filmed programme included a sequence from a London agency, which had been brought in a short time before transmission, edited at the last moment and put out without my clearance.

“This led to a public attack on me on two successive evenings by the then minister in charge of RTÉ, Dr Conor Cruise O’Brien.

The inquiries that followed judged that I should have previewed the programme which, in my view, had been deliberately put out in my absence.

“I offered to resign if this would serve the institutional interests of RTÉ.

“This was refused but in April 1975 I told the then Director-General, Oliver Maloney, that the grouping would have either to be established as a full division with its own resources or closed down.

“He rejected the first alternative so I resigned and the Grouping was disbanded.

“Following my resignation, I was appointed Director of TV Development, a title later changed to Director of Broadcasting Development, a sideways move that really left it to me to determine what I would make of the job.”

He chaired the Planning Group for the station’s second television channel and continued to research and publish material for the public service broadcaster on a range of topics, including its relationship with government.

This was a particularly thorny subject given that in 1972, while he was Deputy Head of News, a Fianna Fáil government had fired the RTÉ Authority after the News Division broadcast a radio interview recorded with Seán Mac Stíofáin, then chief of staff of the Provisional IRA.

The then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, justified the dismissal saying the Authority had  breached a government directive, given under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act, ordering them “not to project people who put forward violent means for achieving their purpose”.

The Fine Gael-Labour administration, elected in 1973, had continued to implement the directive.

And this was the context in which Fianna Fáil’s new appointees to the RTÉ Authority and senior RTÉ management figures like Des Fisher, had to handle the seven days debacle in October 1974.

Des Fisher left the national broadcaster in 1983, less than two years before reaching the mandatory retirement age.

He became Editor and Managing Director of the Carlow Nationalist and Leinster Times.

In 2009, approaching the age of 80, he contributed to the RTÉ documentary “If Lynch Had Invaded” about his role with RTÉ in 1969 when the Taoiseach Jack Lynch made a dramatic television broadcast to outline the Government’s response to the security forces attacking nationalist communities in Derry.

In 1967, his book on the Second Vatican Council, “The Church in Transition” was published by (Geoffrey Chapman and) Fides.

He is survived by his wife Margaret (Peggy), daughter Carolyn, and sons Michael, John and Hugh, other close relatives and a wide circle of friends.

Extracts relating to RTÉ from Desmond Fisher’s own summary of his 70-year career in journalism are kindly reproduced courtesy of the Fisher family and are copyright  © 2015 


Pope Francis  Photo: Christiantoday.com

Pope Francis Photo: Christiantoday.com

The message of Pope Francis for St Stephen’s Day. This article by Carey Lodge comes from Christiantoday.com.

“Following the Gospel is certainly a demanding path,” but Christians are given peace by God in all circumstances, the Pope said today during his annual St Stephen’s Day address.

Speaking before thousands gathered in St Peter’s Square, Francis highlighted the witness of St Stephen – the first martyr of the Church – who he said “shows us how to live in the fullness of the mystery of Christmas”.

“Stephen honoured the coming into the world of the King of Kings, offering to him the gift of his own life,” the Pope said. “And if not all are called, as Saint Stephen was, to shed their own blood, nonetheless, every Christian is called in every circumstance to be to live a life that is coherent with the faith he or she professes.”

Pointing to Matthew 10:22, which says ‘You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved’, Francis added that Jesus’ words: “Do not disrupt the celebration of Christmas, but strip it of that false saccharine-sweetness that does not belong to it.

“It makes us understand that in the trials accepted on account of the faith, violence is overcome by love, death by life,” he explained.

“To truly welcome Jesus in our existence, and to prolong the joy of the Holy Night, the path is precisely the one indicated in this Gospel: that is, to bear witness in humility, in silent service, without fear of going against the current.”

The Pope also said that following the Gospel “is certainly a demanding path, but those who travel it with fidelity and courage receive the gift promised by the Lord to men and women of good will.

“At Bethlehem, in fact, the angels announced to the shepherds, ‘on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests’. This peace given by God is able to soothe the conscience of those who, through the trials of life, know to welcome the Word of God and observe it with perseverance to the end,” he said.

The Pope concluded his address by praying for persecuted Christians around the world. “I want to say to each of them: If you carry this cross with love, you have entered into the mystery of Christmas, you are in the heart of Jesus and of the Church,” he said.

“Let us pray also that, thanks to the sacrifices of the martyrs of today, the commitment to recognise and concretely to ensure religious liberty — an inalienable right of every human person — would be strengthened in every part of the world.”

He also greeted “everyone named Stephen or Stephanie” in particular, offering them his best wishes.

“And please, continue to pray for me. Don’t forget!” he finished. “Happy Feast Day, and have a good lunch.”



Pope Francis  Photo: news.va

Pope Francis Photo: news.va

Vatican Radio reports on the meeting Pope Francis had in the Vatican yesterday with the heads and other senior officials of the departments of the Roman Curia, in their traditional exchange of Christmas greetings. But there was something very non-traditional about the Pope’s remarks. He listed fifteen ailments of the administration that he wanted to be cured. The Holy Father focused on the need for those who serve in the Curia – especially those in positions of power and authority – to remember and cultivate an attitude and a spirit of service.

“Sometimes,” said Pope Francis, “[officials of the Curia] feel themselves ‘lords of the manor’ [It. padroni] – superior  to everyone and everything,” forgetting that the spirit, which should animate them in their lives of service to the universal Church, is one of humility and generosity, especially in view of the fact that none of us will live forever on this earth…The Curia is always required to better itself and to grow in communion, sanctity and wisdom to fully accomplish its mission. However, like any body, it is exposed to sickness, malfunction and infirmity… I would like to mention some of these illnesses that we encounter most frequently in our life in the Curia. They are illnesses and temptations that weaken our service to the Lord”, continued the Pontiff, who after inviting all those present to an examination of conscience to prepare themselves for Christmas, listed the most common Curial ailments:

The first is “the sickness of considering oneself ‘immortal’, ‘immune’ or ‘indispensable’, neglecting the necessary and habitual controls. A Curia that is not self-critical, that does not stay up-to-date, that does not seek to better itself, is an ailing body. … It is the sickness of the rich fool who thinks he will live for all eternity, and of those who transform themselves into masters and believe themselves superior to others, rather than at their service”.

The second is “’Martha-ism’, or excessive industriousness; the sickness of those who immerse themselves in work, inevitably neglecting ‘the better part’ of sitting at Jesus’ feet. Therefore, Jesus required his disciples to rest a little, as neglecting the necessary rest leads to stress and agitation. Rest, once one who has brought his or her mission to a close, is a necessary duty and must be taken seriously: in spending a little time with relatives and respecting the holidays as a time for spiritual and physical replenishment, it is necessary to learn the teaching of Ecclesiastes, that ‘there is a time for everything’”.

Then there is “the sickness of mental and spiritual hardening: that of those who, along the way, lose their inner serenity, vivacity and boldness and conceal themselves behind paper, becoming working machines rather than men of God. … It is dangerous to lose the human sensibility necessary to be able to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice! It is the sickness of those who lose those sentiments that were present in Jesus Christ”.

“The ailment of excessive planning and functionalism: this is when the apostle plans everything in detail and believes that, by perfect planning things effectively progress, thus becoming a sort of accountant. … One falls prey to this sickness because it is easier and more convenient to settle into static and unchanging positions. Indeed, the Church shows herself to be faithful to the Holy Spirit to the extent that she does not seek to regulate or domesticate it. The Spirit is freshness, imagination and innovation”.

The “sickness of poor coordination develops when the communion between members is lost, and the body loses its harmonious functionality and its temperance, becoming an orchestra of cacophony because the members do not collaborate and do not work with a spirit of communion or as a team”.

“Spiritual Alzheimer’s disease, or rather forgetfulness of the history of Salvation, of the personal history with the Lord, of the ‘first love’: this is a progressive decline of spiritual faculties, that over a period of time causes serious handicaps, making one incapable of carrying out certain activities autonomously, living in a state of absolute dependence on one’s own often imaginary views. We see this is those who have lost their recollection of their encounter with the Lord … in those who build walls around themselves and who increasingly transform into slaves to the idols they have sculpted with their own hands”.

“The ailment of rivalry and vainglory: when appearances, the colour of one’s robes, insignia and honours become the most important aim in life. … It is the disorder that leads us to become false men and women, living a false ‘mysticism’ and a false ‘quietism’”.

Then there is “existential schizophrenia: the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that cannot be filled by degrees or academic honours. This ailment particularly afflicts those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality and with real people. They create a parallel world of their own, where they set aside everything they teach with severity to others and live a hidden, often dissolute life”.

The sickness of “chatter, grumbling and gossip: this is a serious illness that begins simply, often just in the form of having a chat, and takes people over, turning them into sowers of discord, like Satan, and in many cases cold-blooded murderers of the reputations of their colleagues and brethren. It is the sickness of the cowardly who, not having the courage to speak directly to the people involved, instead speak behind their backs”.

“The sickness of deifying leaders is typical of those who court their superiors, with the hope of receiving their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, honouring people rather than God. They are people who experience service thinking only of what they might obtain and not of what they should give. They are mean, unhappy and inspired only by their fatal selfishness”.

“The disease of indifference towards others arises when each person thinks only of himself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of personal relationships. When the most expert does not put his knowledge to the service of less expert colleagues; when out of jealousy … one experiences joy in seeing another person instead of lifting him up or encouraging him”.

“The illness of the funereal face: or rather, that of the gruff and the grim, those who believe that in order to be serious it is necessary to paint their faces with melancholy and severity, and to treat others – especially those they consider inferior – with rigidity, hardness and arrogance. In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity”.

“The disease of accumulation: when the apostle seeks to fill an existential emptiness of the heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but simply to feel secure. … Accumulation only burdens and inexorably slows down our progress”.

“The ailment of closed circles: when belonging to a group becomes stronger than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, to Christ Himself. This sickness too may start from good intentions but, as time passes, enslaves members and becomes a ‘cancer’ that threatens the harmony of the Body and causes a great deal of harm – scandals – especially to our littlest brothers”.

Then, there is the “disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism: when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into goods to obtain worldly profits or more power. This is the disease of those who seek insatiably to multiply their power and are therefore capable of slandering, defaming and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally in order to brag and to show they are more capable than others”.

Pope Francis  Photo: news.va

Pope Francis Photo: news.va

Pope Francis continued: “We are therefore required, at this Christmas time and in all the time of our service and our existence – to live ‘speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love’”.

“I once read that priests are like aeroplanes: they only make the news when they crash, but there are many that fly. Many criticise them and few pray for them”, he concluded. “It is a very nice phrase, but also very true, as it expresses the importance and the delicacy of our priestly service, and how much harm just one priest who falls may cause to the whole body of the Church”.

This is surely one of the most important addresses by any Pope in the past fifty years or so, since Vatican II. The video of his address in Italian can be watched here.