VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis held his first meeting on Friday with staff of the Vatican department that was at the center of last year’s scandal over leaked documents alleging corruption, ahead of expected changes to its leadership.
The person he chooses to succeed Cardinal Tarciscio Bertone as head of the Secretariat of State will be among his most important decisions because he will be instrumental in helping Francis set the tone for a humbler Church following a period of scandals.
Bertone has been widely blamed for failing to prevent the many mishaps and infighting in Church government during the eight-year pontificate of now-retired Pope Benedict.
Francis inherited a Church struggling to deal with priests’ sexual abuse of children; the alleged corruption and infighting in the Vatican’s central administration, known as the Curia; and conflict over the running of the Vatican’s scandal-ridden bank.
Benedict left a secret report for Francis on the problems in the administration, which came to light when sensitive documents were stolen from the pope’s desk and leaked by his butler in what became know as the “Vatileaks” scandal.
The basic failings of the Curia were aired, sometimes passionately, at closed-door meetings of cardinals before they retired into the conclave that elected Francis.
Anger at the mostly Italian prelates who run the Curia was one of the reasons cardinals chose the first non-European pope for 1,300 years and quashed the chances of one of the front runners, Milan Archbishop Angelo Scola.
Francis greeted each of the Secretariat of State’s 300 staff members individually and thanked them for their “priceless commitment” to the administering the 1.2 billion-member Catholic Church, a Vatican statement said.
Benedict’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested and sentenced by a Vatican court to 18 months in prison last year but Benedict pardoned him and he was freed just before Christmas.
Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alison Williams