Pope says Church should shun obsession with power, money

Tue Nov 10, 2015 8:14am EST
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By Philip Pullella and Silvia Ognibene

FLORENCE, Italy (Reuters) - Pope Francis called on Tuesday for a Catholic Church that is not cosseted, self-centered 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 leaks 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 Church worldwide in a speech to Italian bishops at their national convention, held every 10 years.

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

Like many national Catholic Churches in Europe, Italy's is powerful and wealthy, has often been cozy with political powers and has been accused of seeking economic privileges.

"God save the Italian Church from any form of power, image, and money," Francis said, speaking in Florence's magnificent cathedral of Santa Maria in Fibre whose famous dome was designed by Renaissance master architect Filipino Brunelleschi.

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.   Continued...

Pope Francis leaves after a meeting in the baptistery of the cathedral of Florence during his pastoral visit, November 10, 2015. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini