Pope Francis outlined plans for reform of the Catholic Church to make it less “Vatican-centric” on Tuesday as he met cardinals tasked with helping him overhaul the 2,000-year-old institution.

In his strongest censure yet, the Argentine pontiff condemned “leprosy” in the Vatican and called for a less hierarchical Church structured “horizontally”.

“Leaders of the Church have often been Narcissuses, gratified and sickeningly excited by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy,” Pope Francis said in an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica .

The comments came as the Pope met a group of eight cardinals, including an Indian, he has called to advise him on reforming the Vatican administration.

Pope Francis has already taken several significant steps to tackle one of the Vatican’s most high-profile problems: the scandal-plagued bank. In June, he set up a pontifical commission to analyse the bank and propose ways to reform it, and on Tuesday it published its accounts for the first time in a drive for transparency.

A report in the Corriere della Sera daily said the bank was shutting 900 accounts as part of an internal audit, including ones deemed suspicious belonging to diplomats from the embassies to the Holy See of Indonesia, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

The unique advisory board of cardinals is holding closed door talks for three days and is expected to address further financial reform, the role of women in the Church and whether to soften institutional lines on issues such as the position of divorced Catholics and homosexuality. — AFP