Pope Francis calls for power to move away from Vatican

Pope Francis greets a crowd in the Vatican on November 24 Pope Francis has pioneered a more informal style as pontiff

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Pope Francis has called for power in the Catholic Church to be devolved away from the Vatican, in the first major work he has written in the role.

In the document, he says he is open to suggestions to changes in the power of the papacy.

He also warns that rising global economic inequality is bound to explode in conflict.

Since becoming Pope in March, Francis has struck a markedly different tone to his predecessor on several issues.

Analysis

The new document did not address some of the key ethical reforms called for by Catholic progressives and ruled out any change in the Church's teaching on abortion or the exclusion of women from the priesthood. However, the Pope has already set up an advisory council of eight cardinals who are due to gather in Rome for their second plenary meeting next week.

He has also set up new mechanisms for reform of the Vatican bureaucracy. the main thrust of Pope Francis' pontificate, as outlined in this document and in his many homilies, is that he wants to see a less Vatican-centred Church whose greatest concern is for the poor and the marginalised, victims of an unjust global economic system that puts profit before people.

In addition, Pope Francis says that ties with Islam have taken on great importance for the Catholic Church because of the growing number of Muslim immigrants now residing in many traditionally Catholic countries. "We Christians," he says, "should embrace Muslims with affection and respect in the same way that we hope and ask to be respected in countries of Islamic tradition."

In his "apostolic exhortation", Pope Francis said he preferred a Church that was "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".

The document suggests major changes are on the way, with Francis noting that the Church has to get over an attitude that says: "We have always done it this way," the BBC's David Willey reports from Rome.

It represents an ambitious programme to try to rekindle his church's missionary zeal, our correspondent says.

However, the document reiterates the Church's opposition to the ordination of female priests, saying this is "not a question open to discussion".

The document also touches on inter-faith relations, urging Christians to "embrace with affection and respect Muslim immigrants to our countries in the same way that we hope and ask to be received and respected in countries of Islamic tradition".

'Idolatry of money'

Last month Pope Francis held his first meeting with a special group of cardinals to consider ways to reform the Vatican bureaucracy after saying in a newspaper interview that the Vatican had become too self-interested and needed to be inclusive.

Start Quote

I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society”

End Quote Pope Francis

"Excessive centralisation, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church's life and her missionary outreach," he says in the latest document.

He also says he does not believe that the papacy "should be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world".

This month the Vatican launched an unprecedented survey of the views of lay Catholics on modern family life and sexual ethics.

The document does restate the Church's opposition to abortion but concedes that "it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations,... especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty".

"Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?" he asks.

Pope Francis also expands on his concerns about economic inequality.

"Today we also have to say "thou shalt not" to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills," he says, going on to castigate the "new idolatry of money".

"I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!" he goes on.

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