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It's time to start 'cleaning house' at the Vatican

With the honeymoon over Pope Francis is now expected to fulfill a practical leadership role

<p>Pope Francis listens to a prayer during a meeting in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican in June (AFP photo/Alberto Pizzoli)</p>

Pope Francis listens to a prayer during a meeting in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican in June (AFP photo/Alberto Pizzoli)

  • Alessandro, Speciale, Vatican City
  • Vatican City
  • August 2, 2013
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Commentators, whether they be Catholic or not, have described Pope Francis’ trip to Brazil for World Youth Day as nothing less than a triumph.

But now back at the Vatican – where he has decided to spend the hot Roman summer without escaping to the hillside retreat of Castel Gandolfo as his predecessors did – the Argentine pontiff faces the real task that cardinals set before him when they elected him in the Sistine Chapel in March: reforming the Vatican, especially the Roman Curia, the Church's central administration.

In some quarters of the Church, especially those who are less instinctively sympathetic to Francis' focus on mercy and poverty rather than on doctrine and orthodoxy, people are becoming impatient.

“We also wanted someone with good managerial and leadership skills, and so far that hasn't been as obvious. It's a little bit of a surprise that he hasn't played his hand on that front yet,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York in a recent interview with the National Catholic Reporter.

The date to look out for will come in early October, when the cardinals' commission for Curia reform he appointed one month into his papacy will meet for the first time after months of preparatory work and private audiences with Francis.

But in recent days the pontiff has already given an indication as to what his approach will be when he finally gets round to 'cleaning house' at the Vatican.

What he seems mostly adverse to is clerics who dabble too imprudently with money – not just those who try to enrich themselves or just give the impression of doing so.

On Wednesday, Francis accepted the resignation of Slovenia's top two churchmen, the archbishops of Ljubljana and Maribor.

Slovenia is a small East European country that has flourished enormously after the breakup of Yugoslavia and its entry into the European Union.

It is a traditionally Catholic country as is its larger neighbor, Croatia. But Slovenia's church has suffered from a scandal that broke in 2010: Maribor archdiocese ventured into a series of hazardous economic ventures, including investing in a national TV channel that was notorious for its porn output.

The business ran up a loss of €800 million (US$1.05 billion) and when the hole started becoming too big to fill the Holy See had to step in.

Benedict XVI ordered the resignation of the previous Archbishop of Maribor but his successor and other Church leaders in Slovenia were found during further investigations to be responsible as well.

Maybe in old times the fact that a culprit had been found out would have been deemed sufficient, and the desire not to rock the boat and confuse the flock would have prevailed. Not with Francis, it seems.

Then there is the case of Cameroon’s Simon-Victor Tonyé Bakot, Archbishop of Yaoundé, the country's capital. The Vatican, as usual, did not give specific reasons for his early resignation.

But Vatican Radio reported, in its French edition, that “according to the Cameroonian press, Monsignor Bakot had been involved in several real estate deals.”

That Francis doesn't like the pomp and the honors traditionally attached to successful careers in the Church is by now a surprise to no one.

It seems that the pope won't content himself with overturning the scandal-ridden Vatican Bank – which is involved in an all-out attempt to show its transparency efforts are genuine.

It has even set up a public website for the first time, but Francis, on the return flight from Brazil, made it clear that all options are still on the table for him, including shutting the bank down completely.

Those bishops and clerics who have secured a somewhat cushy position for themselves in past years, on the other hand, are probably feeling a bit more uncomfortable these days.

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