ROME—Pope Francis urged hope and warned against polarization in response to crisis in the Catholic Church, at the end of a year marked by scandals over financial dealings and sex abuse that besmirched the reputations of the last three popes and other prominent clerics.
A Vatican report revealed in November that Pope Francis and his two immediate predecessors had failed for years to discipline U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick for sexual misconduct. Separately, the church was dogged during 2020 by scandals over a loss-making investment purchase in London real estate by the Vatican’s powerful Secretariat of State.
In his Christmas speech to Vatican officials on Monday, Pope Francis cautioned against “judging the church hastily on the basis of the crises caused by scandals past and present.…Problems immediately end up in the newspapers—this happens every day—while signs of hope only make the news much later, if at all.”
The Vatican has charged an Italian businessman with extortion, embezzlement, fraud and money laundering in connection with the real-estate investment.
Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who oversaw the investment during his time at the secretariat, resigned in September, though the Vatican hasn’t explained why. The cardinal has denied wrongdoing. In November, the Vatican announced that the secretariat would no longer manage its own investments, which would be transferred to the Holy See’s treasury.