VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis on Saturday told Church officials to be professionals who serve their public and don't gossip, in his first address to the Catholic Church government he has set out to reform.
The Argentine pope has worked quickly since his election in March to establish a series of specialist bodies to tackle corruption and poor management in the Vatican, including at the Roman Curia, the scandal-hit, intrigue-filled government of the Catholic Church.
In his Saturday address, the pontiff said "professionalism and service" were "two hallmarks of the curial official, and even more of curial superiors."
"Professionalism, by which I mean competence, study, keeping abreast of things... is a basic requisite for working in the Curia," he said.
"When professionalism is lacking, there is a slow drift downwards towards mediocrity. Dossiers become full of trite and lifeless information, and incapable of opening up lofty perspectives," he said.
"When the attitude is no longer one of service to the particular Churches and their bishops, the structure of the Curia turns into a ponderous, bureaucratic customshouse, constantly inspecting and questioning, hindering the working of the Holy Spirit and the growth of God's people."
Finally, officials at the Curia should all have a "conscientious objection to gossip," which is "harmful to people, our work and our surroundings."
Among the reform steps taken by Francis since his election has been the naming of eight cardinals from around the world to advise him on the Curia overhaul and planning a major restructuring of the Vatican bank.
In an interview in early October Francis called for a Catholic Church government that would be less "Vatican-centric" and berated "courtiers" in the Vatican as being swayed by earthly values.
Underlying the enormity of the task and displaying the common touch and sense of humour that have helped endear the new pope to his followers, Francis began Saturday's speech with the equivalent of a shout-out to Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Vatican "prime minister" who took over from a scandal-tainted predecessor in October and has hinted at a reformist outlook in line with the pontiff's.
"Allow me to extend a special greeting to Archbishop Pietro Parolin, who recently began his service as Secretary of State, and who needs our prayers!"