By Phillip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis fired the entire leadership of the Roman Catholic Church’s global charity arm on Tuesday over allegations of employee bullying and humiliation, and appointed a commissioner to head it.
The surprise move involved the executives of Caritas Internationalis (CI), a Vatican-based confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social organizations operating in more than 200 countries.
The resignation of the executive level of CI, which has more than a million staff and volunteers around the world, was announced in a papal decree released by the Vatican press office.
A separate statement from the Vatican’s development department, which oversees CI, said an assessment of the work environment this year by outside management and psychological experts found malaise and poor management practices at headquarters.
Current and former staffers told Reuters of instances of verbal abuse, favoritism and general human resource mismanagement that had led to some employees leaving. CI is located in a building in Rome owned by the Vatican.
“No evidence emerged of financial mismanagement or sexual impropriety, but other important themes and urgent areas of concern emerged from the panel’s work,” the development agency’s statement said.
“Real shortcomings in management and procedures have been identified, which seriously damage team spirit and staff morale,” the company said.
It said that while “financial matters have been handled well and fundraising goals have been regularly met,” management standards and procedures needed improvement.
A CI spokesman 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 day-to-day operations. His main job at the Vatican is head of the Church’s missionary arm.
The position of president is traditionally held by a cardinal.
Tagle, a Filipino often considered a possible future pope, will step down as president but will remain in a new role to help the commissioner maintain relations with national Caritas offices and prepare for the election of a new leadership next year.
Two current Caritas insiders and a former staffer, all of whom spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the decree targeted the management practices of the outgoing secretary general’s office and board.
The former staffer said employees had left jobs in offices outside Italy because of a climate of bullying, fear and “ritual humiliation”.
Apart from Tagle and a priest, all members of the CI’s executive branch were lay people.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; editing by Nick Macfie and Bill Berkrot)