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Pope slams Vatican bureaucracy in Christmas speech

There was little holiday cheer to see at the Vatican on Monday.

There was little holiday cheer to see at the Vatican on Monday.

In his latest surprising move, Pope Francis critiqued the cardinals, bishops and priests who comprise the bureaucracy that serves him. During his annual Christmas greeting, he accused the Holy See of lusting for power, living hypocritical double lives and suffering from "spiritual Alzheimer's" that has made the group forget the expectations to serve as joyful men of God, The Associated Press reported.

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Pope Francis spoke about how the "terrorism of gossip" can "kill the reputation of our colleagues and brothers in cold blood," and how cliques can "enslave their members and become a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body" and eventually kill it by "friendly fire."

The Catholic Church, he added, "is called on to always improve itself and grow in communion, holiness and knowledge to fulfill its mission. But even it, as any human body, can suffer from ailments, dysfunctions, illnesses."

The issues, Francis said, should be amended and cured by the beginning of the new year. Few members of the Holy See, which governs the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church, smiled during the pope's speech, according to the AP report.

Francis, who turned 78 last week, is the first Jesuit to assume the role of pontiff. When he succeeded Pope Benedict XVI last March, he promised to change the ways the Vatican conducts business. He has broken with his predecessors several times, saying the church cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptives, and asking, “Who am I to judge?” in response to reports of gay clergy members. And his personal plea contributed to the thawing of more than five decades of tense U.S.-Cuban relations last week.

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The pope's address came as his nine main cardinal advisers begin revamping the entire bureaucratic structure to combine offices with the goal of making them more responsive and efficient.

In October, Francis made a significant rhetorical break with Catholic tradition by declaring that the theories of evolution and the Big Bang are real, and remarking that God is not “a magician with a magic wand.” He explained that both evolution and the Big Bang are not incompatible with the existence of God. In fact, he said, they “require it.”

The Catholic leader was named “Person of the Year” in 2013 by TIME Magazine. He is scheduled to visit the United States next year in his first trip to the country since he took control of the papacy last March.