Pope Francis tells Vatican to hire more women and lay people

Pope Francis delivers a blistering Christmas address to Vatican employees on Dec. 22, 2016.
Pope Francis delivers a blistering Christmas address to Vatican employees on Dec. 22, 2016.
(Gregorio Borgia / Associated Press)

Pope Francis on Thursday accused Vatican officials of “malicious resistance” to his reform of the Holy See’s sluggish and opaque bureaucracy, saying lay men and women should be appointed to leadership positions, if they are more qualified than clerics.

In a blistering address, Francis warned Vatican prelates that he will not accept mere “plastic surgery to take away wrinkles” of the church.

“Dear brothers, it is not wrinkles that the church should fear, but stains!” the pontiff said.

He singled out the trick of promoting enemies to positions where they were less of a threat, saying, “This is a cancer.”


It was the third time that Francis has used his annual Christmas address to the Roman Catholic Church’s central bureaucracy, or Curia, to warn the assembled cardinals, bishops and priests that he will not tolerate turf battles and careerism as he tries to streamline Vatican bureaucracy.

In 2014, he listed what he saw as the top 15 vices of the clerics who run the tiny city state, accusing them of “Spiritual Alzheimer’s” and saying they believe they are “immortal.”

Last year, he said he wanted to avoid dwelling on “the catalog of curial diseases” and instead listed the virtues needed for good government.

On Thursday, he offered his top 12 tips for good office management.

In addition to better organization, he said, it was “of great importance” to ensure “the role of women and lay people in the church and their appointment to leading roles” in Vatican departments. He also noted the need for multiculturalism.

Since his election in 2013, Francis has merged Vatican departments and tried to bring transparency to its scandal-plagued bank. The surprise resignation of his predecessor, Pope Benedict, has been linked to allegations of corruption and in-fighting at the Holy See.

Two books published in Italy last year detailed cases of cronyism and greed behind the Vatican’s walls.

As in previous years, the Pope on Thursday gave a separate address to lower-level staff — including gardeners, cooks and cleaners — that was far more friendly than the tough speech to prelates.

“I thank everyone of you, every one, for the commitment you show every day to your work,” he said.

Kington is a special correspondent.