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Pope Francis, At Christmas Gathering, Blasts Vatican's Bureaucrats

Pope Francis blasted the Vatican's top bureaucrats at an annual Christmas gathering, accusing the cardinals, bishops and priests who make up the Curia of "spiritual Alzheimer's" and of lusting for power at all costs.

"Sometimes, [officials of the Curia] feel themselves lords of the manor — superior to everyone and everything," Francis told the Curia's assembled members, according to Vatican Radio, which carried a report of the meeting titled "Pope Francis: Christmas greetings to Curia."

The Curia, the administrative body of the Roman Catholic Church, is dominated by Italians who oversee the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. Francis, an Argentine, is the first non-European to hold the papacy in more than a millennium. The former Cardinal had not worked in the Curia before his election; he has made reform of the Vatican a major part of his agenda.

"The Curia needs to change, to improve. ... A Curia that does not criticize itself, that does not bring itself up to date, that does not try to improve, is a sick body," he said.

Joshua McElwee of the National Catholic Reporter writes that the "pope's list of diseases may show just how in need of reform the Vatican is."

John Allen, who covers the Vatican for the Boston Globe's Crux, notes that Francis "has not shied from complaining about the gossiping, careerism, and bureaucratic power intrigues that afflict the Holy See. But as his reform agenda has gathered steam, he seemed even more emboldened to highlight what ails the institution."

The pope listed 15 "ailments" that afflict the Curia, including "spiritual Alzheimer's," being boastful and the "terrorism of gossip."

The Associated Press notes that Francis' speech was met with tepid applause, and "few were smiling as the Pope listed one-by-one the 15 'Ailments of the Curia' that he had drawn up, complete with footnotes and Biblical references."

Here is an official list of the 15 ailments cited by Francis. The Associated Press provides the English translation here.

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Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.
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