Pope Francis has once again used a Christmas greeting to dress down Vatican colleagues, 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.”
Francis acknowledged that there were plenty of competent, loyal and even saintly people who work in the Holy See. But he also said there were others chosen to help him reform the Vatican’s inefficient and outdated bureaucracy who had shown themselves not to be up to the task.
When these people are then “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.”
Francis has a tradition of giving the Curia a tough-love Christmas greeting, inviting the Vatican bureaucrats who help govern the 1.2-billion Catholic Church to a Jesuit-style examination of conscience before the new year.
His most blistering critique came in 2014, when he listed the “15 ailments of the Curia” that some suffered, including the “terrorism of gossip,” ”spiritual Alzheimer’s” and of living “hypocritical” double lives.
Thursday’s speech was tamer, and promised to focus mostly on the Vatican’s relations with other countries and faiths.
But Francis spent a good chunk of his remarks on in-house business, making reference to a number of controversial and mysterious exits of Vatican officials in 2017 that once again raised questions about his ability to reform.
Some of the major heads to roll this year included the Vatican’s first-ever auditor general, the respected No. 2 in the Vatican bank and the Vatican’s hard-line orthodoxy watchdog.