VATICAN CITY — Seven months after ascending the throne of Saint Peter, Pope Francis is in the midst of a crusade against the sins of Vatican City.
Since succeeding Benedict XVI, Francis has publicly sought to transform the tone of his office, extending surprise olive branches to everyone from gays and lesbians to professed atheists. But much more quietly, Vatican officials and observers say, the new pontiff has also begun to alter the atmosphere inside the Holy See, taking steps to shed light on the notoriously opaque Vatican Curia.
Before Benedict stepped down, documents leaked to the Italian news media detailed a lurid opera of rivalries and corruption inside the sprawling bureaucracy of 2,900 clerics and lay functionaries operating in the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica. Reform is seen as key to restoring the faith of the world’s 1 billion Catholics in the Vatican’s administration.
In a place where change is often measured in decades if not centuries, Francis personally moved to oust top officials of the secretive Vatican bank only days after a fresh corruption scandal engulfed the institution, officials say. Francis has also backed a push for greater financial transparency, while moving faster than many expected to replace Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone — Benedict’s secretary of state, who once wielded the power of a vice pope. Bertone, who allegedly stymied efforts to clean up Vatican City, was seen by many observers as a big part of the Holy See’s problem.
More reforms are coming. Two Vatican officials with direct knowledge of the situation said the pope is preparing to consolidate the Curia’s myriad operations, with the aim of reducing the size of the bureaucracy. Francis has recently suggested that clerics should focus on their home dioceses rather than angle for prestigious postings in the Holy See. His new advisory board of eight cardinals from around the globe is seen as a counterweight to the power of Vatican-based authorities.
“Is this going to mean real change? We do not yet know,” said Massimo Teodori, a former Italian senator and longtime critic of the Holy See who penned a tome titled “The Greedy Vatican.” “But something may be happening. There have been announcements and pronouncements, and under this pope, the power of the Curia around Cardinal Bertone is already no more.”
Inside the Vatican, a sense of apprehension similar to that of company management after the arrival of a crusading new chief executive has taken root. Bishops who were once chatty with journalists have clammed up. And after Bertone’s exit, the question floating around the ancient walls of the city-state is: Whose dome-hatted head could roll next?
Francis is also feeling the beginnings of a backlash. Last week, two leading Italian commentators from the same camp as conservative members of the Curia unleashed a front-page tirade in the Foglio newspaper under the headline: “We don’t like the new pope.” The outburst immediately led to the cancellation of both men’s shows on the Italian Catholic radio station, Radio Maria.
Though their commentaries had largely targeted what they called the new pope’s embrace of modernity and his everyman approach to his lofty office, analysts here also read them as part of a pressure campaign against too much reform, too quickly.
The holiest plant of the Christmas season may be a raggedy shrub with peeling bark that seems to grow best in a dusty backyard in Tempe, Ariz. This is Boswellia sacra, better known as the frankincense tree. The shrub’s gum resin is one of the three biblical gifts that the wise men bestowed on the infant Jesus. Until recently, Americans who wished to cultivate their…
Having a kid has either revived my Christmas spirit or lowered my threshold for excitement. As one who struggles with working-mom guilt, I can't, in good conscience, ditch my 6-year-old on weekends to go skiing or snowboarding by myself, though the thought does cross my mind. So instead, on a recent day off, my husband, daughter and I ventured into the woods to cut down…
If you feel the need for speed but aren't a board rider or downhill skier, tubing could be just the thing. Time was, you blew up an old inner tube and headed into the mountains in search of snow and a likely slope. You'd trudge up the hill, cruise down for all it was worth and hot foot it back uphill. The sweat factor was…
Some people are crafty. Hand them a stack of pine boughs, they'll give you back a wreath. Give them some yarn and a few knitting needles, and they'll make a holiday sweater. The rest of us are not so lucky. Or maybe we are in luck this time of year, because bazaar season is right around the corner. Take a stroll through one of these…
FRESNO, Calif. — Federal law now allows visitors to carry guns in national parks, but you can’t just slip a loaded pistol into your backpack and take a hike. Pay attention, because this is a little complicated. You will need a concealed weapons permit to carry the loaded gun in the backpack. But you don’t need any kind of permit if you just want to…