VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis on Thursday (Dec 22) told Vatican officials to start appointing women and lay people to top jobs in the Curia, the Holy See bureaucracy that he is seeking to shake-up.
In his latest broadside against resistance to change in the Catholic church's corridors of power, the 80-year-old pontiff warned that the reform process he launched in 2013 had to lead to more than a cosmetic "face-lift" or plastic surgery to remove wrinkles.
"Dear brothers, it's not the wrinkles in the church that you should fear, but the stains!" Francis said in his Christmas speech to senior Curia officials.
The blistering tone will have come as no surprise to the assembled staff. In 2014 he described some of them as hypocritical, status-obsessed careerists who were suffering from "spiritual Alzheimer's".
This year he set out 12 principles guiding the reform he wants to see. One of those was "catholicism" in the sense of "all embracing", and it was under that heading that he made arguably his most significant comments.
Referring to the Vatican dicasteries, or departments, that he has sought to streamline and reorganise, Francis said it would be "appropriate" to bring in more lay people, especially where their expertise made them more competent than staff drawn from the clergy.
"The development of the role of women and lay people in the church and their appointment to leading roles in the dicasteries, with particular attention to multi-culturalism, is furthermore of great importance," Francis said.
As things stand, all the dicasteries, including those shaken-up by Francis, are headed by religious figures and the Curia has been a clerical closed shop for centuries.