Pope Francis has accused Vatican officials of “ambition”, “vainglory” and “self-referentiality” in his annual address to the Roman Curia.

The speech, given shortly before Christmas, has often served as a wake-up call for officials. In 2014, Francis drew up a list of “sicknesses”, such as “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and “existential schizophrenia”, which he said were rife in the Vatican.

The Pope once again delivered some stern criticisms of his staff and appeared to allude to recent public controversies.

He denounced an “unbalanced and debased mindset of plots and small cliques that in fact represent – for all their self-justification and good intentions – a cancer leading to a self-centredness”.

He also referred to former officials who had left after being “corrupted by ambition or vainglory. Then, when they are quietly sidelined, they wrongly declare themselves martyrs of the system, of a ‘Pope kept in the dark’, of the ‘old guard’ … rather than reciting a mea culpa.”

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has been the focus of recent controversy. Three officials were removed from their posts, despite protests from the then prefect Cardinal Gerhard Müller. The cardinal’s term was then not renewed – the first time this has happened in recent Vatican history.

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