Pope Francis on Tuesday fired the entire leadership of the Roman Catholic Church’s worldwide charity arm following accusations of bullying and humiliation of employees, and appointed a commissioner to run it.
The surprise move involved the executives of Caritas Internationalis (CI), a Vatican-based confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social services organisations working in more 200 countries.
The sackings of the executive level of CI, which has more than a million staff and volunteers around the world, were announced in a papal decree released by the Vatican press office.
A separate statement from the Vatican’s development department, which oversees CI, said a review of the workplace environment this year by external management and psychological experts found malaise and bad management practices at its headquarters.
Current and former staffers told Reuters of cases of verbal abuse, favouritism, and general human resources mismanagement that had led some staff to leave. CI is based in a Vatican-owned building in Rome.
“No evidence emerged of financial mismanagement or sexual impropriety, but other important themes and areas for urgent attention emerged from the panel’s work,” the statement from the development office said.
“Real deficiencies were noted in management and procedures, seriously prejudicing team spirit and staff morale,” it said.
It said that while “financial matters have been well-handled and fundraising goals regularly achieved”, management norms and procedures had to be improved.
A CI spokesperson referred all questions to the statement.
Among those affected by the decree was Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who was nominally president of Caritas but was not involved in the day-to-day operations. His main job at the Vatican is head of the Church’s missionary arm.
The president’s position is traditionally held by a cardinal.
Tagle, a Filipino who is often considered a possible future pope, will step down as president but remain in a new role to help the commissioner keep up relations with national Caritas offices and prepare for election of a new leadership next year.
Two current Caritas insiders and one former staffer, all of whom spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, said the decree was aimed at the management practices by the office of the outgoing secretary general and the board.
The former staffer said employees had left jobs at the headquarters because of a climate of bullying, fear and “ritual humiliation”.
Apart from Tagle and one priest, all members of the CI executive were lay people.