Pope Francis has urged his staff to examine their consciences over the festive season as he warned plots and cliques within the Vatican “represent a cancer of self-referential attitudes”.
The pontiff added that “patience, dedication and delicacy” were required to reform Rome, describing the process as “like cleaning the Egyptian sphinxes with a toothbrush”.
In an address at the Apostolic Palace, Francis acknowledged that many of the Vatican’s staff did their jobs well.
But he also said some of those chosen to help him update the church’s central bureaucracy were not up to the task.
And when such individuals are “delicately” removed, “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” he said.
He also alleged that some had used the church for personal gain, dubbing them “traitors of trust”.
Such individuals “were chosen to help the reform effort, but not comprehending the importance of their responsibilities, allowed themselves to be corrupted by ambition or vanity”.
It is not the first time that Francis has used his Christmas address to deliver some home truths.
In 2014, he listed the “15 ailments of the Curia” that some staff suffered from. They included the “terrorism of gossip,” ”spiritual Alzheimer’s” and living “hypocritical” double lives.
In 2015, he suggested a “catalogue of virtues” his staff should try to develop, such as “honesty, humility and sobriety”.
Last year he denounced resistance to his reform efforts, claiming that some of it had been inspired by the devil.
It is not clear whom the Pope was referring to because he did not name names.
But the Vatican’s first-ever auditor general, Libero Milone, left in June, two years into a five-year term.
Milone claimed the Vatican had produced trumped-up charges against him. The Holy See accused him, in turn, of hiring an outside firm to spy on Vatican officials.
Last month, no reason was given as the Vatican bank’s number two, Giulio Mattietti, was fired.
In July, Francis sacked Cardinal Gerhard Mueller as head of the Vatican’s doctrine office. Areas of criticism included how the office had been handling sex abuse cases.
And Francis’ chief financial reformer, Cardinal George Pell, has returned to his native Australia to stand trial for alleged sexual assault. He has denied the charges.