Pope Francis kisses a child upon his arrival at St Peter's square at the Vatican for his weekly general audience on Wednesday. Photo: VINCENZO PINTO / AFP
“Dear brothers, turn away from clericalism. Just say no to abuse, of power, conscience or any type means saying no forcefully to all forms of clericalism,” the Argentinian pontiff told 74 new bishops, the bulk hailing from Africa.
The group were attending a two-week seminar on how to lead their respective dioceses as the Church attempts to react to paedophilia scandals which have left the Vatican reeling and the pope accused of being party to a high-level cover-up.
Archbishop of Malta Mgr Charles Scicluna, who Francis sent earlier this year to investigate a paedophilia scandal in Chile, and Hans Zollner, director of the Rome Centre for Child Protection, are both due to address the bishops in the course of the seminar.
The pope did not directly mention the scandals which have threatened to spark a schism between conservatives and the Church's progressive wing but told bishops not to succumb to the temptation to behave like “princes”.
“Be men who are poor in material goods and rich in (human) relations, never harsh or confrontational but affable, patient, straightforward and open,” Francis said, urging dedication to the poor and the young in particular, even if the latter might sometimes appear “hedonistic”.
He also warned the bishops against succumbing to apathy or mediocrity.
Warning of the evils of materialism, the pontiff added: “Do not forget that the devil enters via your pockets!”