Reforming Vatican 'like cleaning Sphinx with toothbrush'

Pope Francis addresses the Roman Curia yesterday (CNS/Claudio Peri)

Pope Francis has criticised the Church’s most senior officials, telling them that reforming the Vatican is like cleaning the Egyptian sphinx with a toothbrush, The Tablet reports.

In his annual Christmas speech to the Roman Curia at the Vatican, the Pope criticised those entrusted with making reforms but instead allow themselves to be “corrupted by ambition" and betray the "Church's motherhood". When this group are sidelined, Francis explained, they then declare themselves martyr of the system, complain the “old guard” is back in charge or say “Pope kept in dark”.

The 81-year-old Jesuit Pope has made it a tradition of his annual address to criticise the Church’s most senior officials . His first speech to them famously diagnosed them with a list of “spiritual illnesses” while last year he handed each one a book titled Tips to Cure the Ills of the Soul.

This year he once again proceeded with an honest diagnosis of difficulties in reforming the Vatican, a process that he and a small group of cardinal advisers - the majority of whom live outside Rome - have been engaged in for almost five years.

“Speaking of reform, I think of the amusing yet pointed remark of Archbishop Frédéric-François-Xavier de Mérode [a 19th century Belgian diplomat]: ‘Making reforms in Rome is like cleaning the Egyptian Sphinx with a toothbrush’,” he said in a remark that received no laughter from his audience.

“This points to the patience, tenacity and sensitivity needed to attain that goal. For the Curia is an ancient, complex and venerable institution made up of people of different cultures, languages and mindsets.”

Their mission, the Pope stressed, is to assist his universal ministry as the Bishop of Rome and to serve the wider Church.

But some are betraying their mission and trying to “profiteer form the Church’s motherhood.”

He said: “I am speaking of persons carefully selected to give a greater vigour to the body and to the reform, but – failing to understand the lofty nature of their responsibility – let themselves be corrupted by ambition or vainglory. Then, when they are quietly sidelined, they wrongly declare themselves martyrs of the system, of a 'Pope kept in the dark', of the 'old guard' … rather than reciting a mea culpa.”


Reforming the Vatican like cleaning the Egyptian Sphinx with a toothbrush (The Tablet)


Curia exists for service, not for glory, pope says (CNS)

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