Pope Francis sacks leadership of Vatican-based charity accused of 'bullying' employees

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By Euronews  with Reuters
Pope Francis attends his general audience in St Peter's Square, Vatican City. Wednesday, 16 November 2022.
Pope Francis attends his general audience in St Peter's Square, Vatican City. Wednesday, 16 November 2022.   -   Copyright  Alessandra Tarantino/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

Pope Francis on Tuesday sacked the entire leadership of the Roman Catholic Church's international charity wing and has named a commissioner to run it, following allegations of bullying and mistreatment of employees.

The Pontiff's surprise decision was announced in a papal decree and involved the chiefs of Caritas Internationalis (CI), a Vatican-based confederation consisting of 162 Catholic relief, development and social services organisations working in over 200 countries with more than a million staff and volunteers.

Among those affected are Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the outgoing nominal president of Caritas who is often tipped to be the next pope. Tagle will remain in a different role to assist the commissioner in keeping up relations with national Caritas offices and preparing for the election of new leaders in 2023.

A separate statement from the Vatican's development department -- which oversees CI -- revealed that a workplace environment review by external psychologists and management experts found the charity's headquarters were blighted by poor managerial practices and a toxic atmosphere.

"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 added. 

It also said that while "financial matters have been well-handled and fundraising goals regularly achieved", management norms and procedures called for improvement.

Current and former staff members spoke to Reuters about alleged cases of favouritism, verbal abuse, and overall human resources mismanagement that led some employees to call it quits. 

Two insiders and a former staffer -- speaking on the condition of anonymity -- further revealed that the decree was aimed at the management practices by the office of the outgoing secretary general and the board.

The ex-CI employee said HQ staff had resigned because of a climate of bullying, fear and "ritual humiliation".

A CI spokesperson referred all questions to the Vatican department's statement.