Pope Francis calls for church to shun money and power

Pontiff makes new appeal as he faces challenges to Vatican reforms following leaks

Pope Francis greets the crowd  in Florence, Italy. Photograph: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis greets the crowd in Florence, Italy. Photograph: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

 

Pope Francis has called for a Catholic church that is not cosseted, self-centred and obsessed with power and money, as he faces new challenges to his financial reforms at the Vatican.

The Argentine pope, who made his comments during a day trip to Tuscany, has recently been hit by a scandal involving the leak of documents purporting to show resistance by the Vatican’s old guard to his reform efforts.

Francis, who on Sunday vowed to forge ahead with Vatican reforms despite the leaks, issued his call for a different type of Catholic church worldwide, in a speech to Italian bishops at their national convention.

His reforms at the Vatican have included an overhaul of the scandal-plagued Vatican bank to make its operations transparent, giving autonomy to its Financial Intelligence Authority in order to avoid interference by top cardinals, and urging church officials to shun extravagant lifestyles.

“God save the Italian church from any form of power, image, and money,” Francis told the bishops, in Florence’s cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Italy’s Catholic church is powerful and wealthy and has often been cosy with political powers. It has also been accused of seeking economic privileges.

Pope Francis said the church should be “restless, always closer to the abandoned ones, the forgotten ones, the imperfect ones.

“I prefer a church that is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,” he said, repeating a theme from a manifesto he issued several months after his election in 2013.

Appeals

The first non-European pope in 1,500 years has made frequent calls for a more simple, merciful and inclusive church, but his appeals have not always had the success he hoped for.

Last September he asked every Catholic parish, religious community and sanctuary in Europe to take in a family of refugees, and set an example by hosting two families in parishes inside the Vatican, but many still have not done so.

Many church institutions in Italy had transformed structures into hotels for pilgrims but continued to claim tax exemptions.

The pope has told them that if they are not doing church work, such as hosting migrants, they should pay taxes on their profits.

The pope started his day in the nearby city of Prato, a centre of Italy’s textile industry, and which has seen a surge of Chinese immigrants, many working in sweat-shop conditions.

Two years ago, seven Chinese migrants died when a fire swept through their makeshift living quarters in a factory.

“That was a tragedy caused by exploitation and inhumane working conditions,” he said in an address to workers in Praetor, where he also condemned “the cancer of corruption”.

Reuters