Focus on mission, stay true to the cross, pope tells cardinals
By Philip Pullella and Catherine Hornby
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Friday urged leaders of a Roman Catholic Church riven by scandal and crisis never to give in to discouragement, bitterness or pessimism but to keep focused on their mission.
Since his election on Wednesday as the first non-European pope in nearly 1,300 years, Francis has signaled a sharp change of style from his predecessor, Benedict, and has laid out a clear moral path for the 1.2-billion-member Church, which is beset by scandals, intrigue and strife.
"Let us never give in to the pessimism, to that bitterness, that the devil places before us every day. Let us not give into pessimism and discouragement," he told the cardinals who chose him.
The Vatican on Friday strongly denied accusations by some critics in Argentina that Francis stayed silent during systematic human rights abuses by the former military dictatorship in his home country.
Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters the accusations "must be clearly and firmly denied".
Critics of Jorge Bergoglio, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, allege he failed to protect priests who challenged the dictatorship earlier in his career, during the 1976-1983 "dirty war", and that he has said too little about the complicity of the Church during military rule.
Setting out a clear and forceful moral tone in the early days of his papacy, Francis on Thursday told the cardinals they must stick to the faith's Gospel roots and shun modern temptations, otherwise the Church risked becoming just another charitable group without its divine mission.
Francis has given clear signs already that he will bring a new broom to the crisis-hit papacy, favoring humility and simplicity over pomp and grandeur. Continued...