For the fourth year running, Pope Francis used his annual Christmas greeting to the Roman Catholic Church’s central bureaucracy, or Curia, to address the need for change.
“Reforming Rome is like cleaning the Egyptian sphinxes with a toothbrush,” Pope Francis told cardinals, bishops and priests who work for him on Thursday. “You need patience, dedication and delicacy.”
Since his election as the first Latin American Pope in 2013, Pope 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 have plagued it in recent times.
In this year’s message, the Pope acknowledged the overwhelming majority of individuals working for the Vatican were “competent, loyal and even saintly.”
He said, however, that others tasked with helping to reform the Vatican’s outdated and inefficient bureaucracy had shown themselves to be not up to task.
Last year the Vatican’s first auditor was forced to step down and in July this year, in a major shake-up of the Vatican administration, Pope Francis replaced Catholicism’s top theologian, a conservation cardinal who had been at odds with the Pope’s vision of a more inclusive Church. Only this month, the Vatican bank’s deputy director was dismissed under circumstances that have not been explained.
Pope Francis has a tradition of giving the Curia a tough-love Christmas greeting. 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.