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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Monday said the Vatican’s central bureaucracy, the Roman Curia, was suffering from 15 “diseases,” in a speech that was seen as a scathing attack against the administration’s scandal-tainted old guard.

In particular, the pontiff spoke against the “hoarding disease” that sees members of the clergy “amassing material goods, not out of need, but to feel safe.”

In what was seen as an oblique reference to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who is about to move into a 500-square-meter flat, Francis recalled the story of a young priest who was mocked by his superior for loading too many possessions on a truck ahead of moving home.

“These moves are a symptom of our (hoarding) disease,” the pope said.

Bertone was Secretary of State, the Vatican’s second-highest position, under Pope Benedict XVI. Under his watch, the Roman Curia suffered from cronyism, infighting and financial mismanagement, as exposed by the VatiLeaks scandal.

On the weekend, Bertone was stripped of the title of Camerlengo of the Roman Catholic Church — the Vatican’s interim leader when popes die or retire — because he had reached the retirement age of 80. Francis replaced him with French Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran.

In his Monday speech — a traditional pre-Christmas address to Curia members — the pope also spoke against lugubrious priests, “cold-blooded assassins” of other people’s reputations, hypocrites and sycophants.

The church hierarchy is suffering from “the disease of existential schizophrenia: it is the disease of those living a double life (who) create a parallel world, where they disregard (the rules) that they sternly teach to others and live a life that is secret and often dissolute,” he said.

In another passage, Francis said some prelates were suffering from “spiritual Alzheimer’s disease,” meaning that they had gradually lost their spirituality, forgot their connection with God, becoming slaves to “their passions, whims and manias.”

He later addressed the Curia’s lay staff, pleading forgiveness “for my failings and those of my advisers, and also for some scandals, which are very hurtful. Forgive me.”

Francis was elected in March 2013 with a mandate to clean up a Catholic Church that had been shaken by Benedict XVI’s surprise resignation, coming after the VatiLeaks affair and worldwide revelations about pedophile priests.

He has made some progress, especially on financial transparency, but a wider reform of the Curia is still under consideration. The nine-member panel of cardinals studying the matter is due to meet again in February.

AFP Photo/Andreas Solaro

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