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Pope's Christmas message: Serve the world, not 'cancer' of small cliques

By Susan McFarland
Pope Francis delivers a message to prelates on Thursday during his Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican in Rome. Photo by EPA-EFE/Claudio Peri/Pool
1 of 3 | Pope Francis delivers a message to prelates on Thursday during his Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican in Rome. Photo by EPA-EFE/Claudio Peri/Pool

Dec. 21 (UPI) -- During a pre-Christmas greeting to Vatican officials on Thursday, Pope Francis denounced what he called a "cancer" of cliques and corruption of bureaucrats overly concerned with ambition and vanity.

"Reforming Rome is like cleaning the Egyptian sphinxes with a toothbrush," Francis said his remarks at the Vatican. "You need patience, dedication and delicacy."

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During his speech in the Apostolic Palace, Francis warned cardinals, bishops and priests who serve under him against allowing themselves to be "bribed" by ambition in hopes for higher office. Instead, he urged them to act as an antenna and listen for the "cries, joys and tears of the churches of the world."

The pope said the Vatican is designed to be at service of the world, especially local bishops, "for whose good it operates and acts" -- and that Vatican bureaucrats' relationship with local bishops should be based on "collaboration, trust, and never superiority or conflict."

Francis also acknowledged there were many loyal servants who work in the Holy See, but said some who were chosen to help him reform inefficient and outdated bureaucracy could not perform the task. He said as those people were "delicately" removed, "they falsely declare themselves martyrs of the system, of an 'uninformed pope' or the 'old guard,' when in fact they should have done a mea culpa."

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The end of the pope's speech reflected the meaning of Christmas for Christians.

"Christmas reminds us that a faith that does not put itself in crisis is a faith in crisis," he said. "That a faith that does not grow is a faith that must grow; that a faith that does not question us is a faith that we must question; a faith that does not animate us is a faith that must be reanimated; a faith that does not upset us is a faith that must be upset."

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