Pope Francis called on the Catholic church on Tuesday to stop clinging to conservatism and fundamentalism as a defensive response to the problems it is facing, and said the church ought to be “bruised, hurting and dirty” instead of obsessed with money and power.
The sweeping remarks before an audience of Italian bishops at a conference in Florence were a stark reminder of the way in which Pope Francis is trying to shake up a church that in many ways is losing relevance around the world, and continues to be battered by allegations of financial mismanagement and greed at the heart of the Vatican.
“Before the problems of the church it is not useful to search for solutions in conservatism or fundamentalism, in the restoration of obsolete conduct and forms that no longer have the capacity of being significant culturally,” the pope said.
“Christian doctrine is not a closed system incapable of generating questions, doubts, interrogatives. But it is alive, knows being unsettled … it does not have a rigid face, it has a body that moves and grows, it has a soft flesh: it is called Jesus Christ.”
The comments come at a critical juncture for Francis. Last month, a high-level group of bishops from around the world met at the Vatican and engaged in a vigorous debate over how the church ought to respond to changes in the modern family, including the prevalence of divorce.
While Francis has cast himself as a reformer who is seeking to portray the church as a less rigid and less dogmatic institution, which stands with people who live on the margins of society, there are factions in the church that are vigorously resisting his plea for the church to be more flexible and open.
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