Pope Francis has issued a blistering critique of the Vatican bureaucracy that serves him, denouncing how some people lust for power at all costs, live hypocritical double lives and suffer from “spiritual Alzheimer’s”.
Francis’s Christmas greeting to the cardinals, bishops and priests who run the Holy See was no joyful exchange of good wishes. Rather, it was a sobering catalogue of 15 sins of the Curia that Francis said he hoped would be atoned for and cured in the new year.
His criticism included: How the “terrorism of gossip” can “kill the reputation of our colleagues and brothers in cold blood”; how cliques can “enslave their members and become a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body” and eventually kill it by “friendly fire”; how some suffer from a “pathology of power” that makes them seek power at all costs, even if it means defaming or discrediting others publicly.
Francis, who is the first Latin American pope and never worked in the Italian-dominated Curia before he was elected, has not shied from complaining about the gossiping, careerism and bureaucratic power intrigues that afflict the Holy See.
But as his reform agenda gathers steam, he seemed even more emboldened to highlight what ails the institution.
The cardinals were not amused. The speech was met with tepid applause and few were smiling as Francis listed one by one the 15 “Ailments of the Curia” that he had drawn up, complete with footnotes and Biblical references.
At the end of the speech, he asked the prelates to pray that the “wounds of the sins that each one of us carries are healed” and that the Church and Curia itself are made healthy.
The annual Christmas greeting comes at a tense time for the Curia, the central administration of the Holy See which governs the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church. Francis and his nine key cardinal advisers are drawing up plans to revamp the bureaucratic structure, merging offices to make them more efficient and responsive.