Pope condemns 'cancer' of cliques in Christmas message to staff
Francis says some of those chosen to help him reform Holy See have shown themselves to be not up to the task
Harriet Sherwood and agencies
Pope Francis has rebuked Vatican colleagues in a Christmas message, denouncing the “cancer” of cliques and how bureaucrats can become corrupted by ambition and vanity.
“Reforming Rome is like cleaning the Egyptian sphinxes with a toothbrush,” Francis told cardinals, bishops and priests who work for him on Thursday. “You need patience, dedication and delicacy.”
The pope acknowledged there were competent, loyal and even saintly people working in the Holy See. But others tasked with helping to reform the Vatican’s inefficient and outdated bureaucracy had shown themselves to be not up to the task.
When these people were “delicately” removed, Francis said, “they falsely declare themselves martyrs of the system, of an ‘uninformed pope’ or the ‘old guard’, when in fact they should have done a mea culpa.”
Since his election in 2013, Francis has sought to reform the Curia to bring the church’s hierarchy closer to its members, overhaul its finances and guide it out of the scandals that marked the pontificate of his predecessor, Benedict.
But he has encountered resistance, particularly as some departments have been closed, merged or streamlined.
On Thursday, Francis spoke of “traitors of trust” who had been tasked with reform but “let themselves be corrupted by ambition and vanity”.
Last June the Vatican’s first auditor general, Libero Milone, resigned suddenly, later saying he had been forced to step down because he had discovered irregularities. The Vatican said he had been spying on his superiors.
In July, in a shake-up of the Vatican administration, Francis replaced Catholicism’s top theologian, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, a conservative German cardinal who has been at odds with the pontiff’s vision of a more inclusive church.
This month Giulio Mattietti, the Vatican bank’s deputy director, was fired under circumstances that have not been explained.
At the time of Francis’s election, the Curia was stagnant and corrupt. The Vatican banks laundered cash, and sums of money changed hands in the process of creating saints. A blind eye was turned to bishops who colluded in or covered up child abuse.
In the past few years, Francis has made it a tradition to deliver a tough message to the Curia at Christmas, inviting the Vatican bureaucrats who help govern the Catholic church to a Jesuit-style examination of conscience before the new year.
FRANCIS - 15 AILMENTS OF THE CURIA: