Pope Francis has made his strongest call yet for the Roman Catholic Church to enter the modern world as he met senior cardinals charged with giving the 2,000-year-old institution a radical overhaul.
Wide ranging talks on thorny topics including financial corruption, the role of women in the Church and the possible softening of the institution’s highly conservative position on divorcees and homosexuals, are thought to be on the agenda as the council of eight cardinals begins talks for three days behind closed-doors.
The meeting coincided with an interview in La Repubblica newspaper, in which Francis said: “We have to open up to the future,” as he said the Second Vatican Council had done when it introduced reforms nearly 50 years ago.
The pontiff also launched a scathing attack on the political infighting and empire-building that has plagued the Holy See in recent years. “Leaders of the Church have often been Narcissists, gratified and sickeningly excited by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy,” he said.
The Holy See “is too Vatican-centric”, the pontiff said: “It looks after the interests of the Vatican, which are for the most part, earthly interests. This Vatican-centric vision neglects the world that surrounds it. I do not share this vision and will do everything to change it.” Underling his desire to make the church’s outlook more international, the eight cardinals meeting hail from Australia, Chile, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Germany, Honduras, India, Italy and the US. Vatican Insiders said the meeting represented a departure in policy-making for the Holy See, although they noted that the final decision on any changes rested with the Pope.
While Francis has already made conciliatory remarks to gays, divorcees, and non-believers in the past few months, his other mission – to reform the Vatican’s tainted bank, the IoR (Institute for Religious Works) – has been highlighted with news that the troubled institution is seeking to close 900 suspicious accounts.
The newspaper, Corriere della Sera, said four of the suspect accounts were linked to the Vatican embassies of Indonesia, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Earlier this year a judicial report said the bank was a money laundering hot spot.