Don’t turn into ‘compassionate NGO’,Francis I warns Church

The Argentinian pope said the Church should be more focussed on the Gospels of Jesus Christ

Written by New York Times | Vatican City | Published:March 15, 2013 1:38 am

DANIEL J WAKIN & ALAN COWELL

Displaying some of his signature distaste for trappings of high office,Pope Francis,the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio,began the first full day of his papacy on Thursday with private prayers at a Roman basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary,slipping quietly into the building by a side door and leaving some 30 minutes later to return to the Vatican.

Without fanfare,he went on to the Domus Internationalis Paulus VI,the priests’ residence where he was staying before the conclave that anointed him as pope,picked up his baggage and insisted on paying his bill to set an example of priestly behavior in what some Vatican observers took as a token of a new humility and frugality,offsetting the more familiar opulence of the Vatican.

While his precise schedule remained uncertain,Francis,an Argentine and first non-European prelate to win the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church in 12 centuries,was expected to hold an inaugural Mass in Sistine Chapel,where majority of 115 cardinals voted him into office Wednesday.

In his first public Mass,Pope Francis urged the Catholic Church on Thursday to stick to its roots and shun modern temptations,warning that it would become just “a compassionate NGO” if it forgot its true mission,Reuters reported.

The Argentinian pope,addressing cardinals in the Sistine Chapel where he was elected pontiff on Wednesday,said the Church should be more focussed on the Gospels of Jesus Christ.

“We can walk all we want,we can build many things,but if we don’t proclaim Jesus Christ,something is wrong. We would become a compassionate NGO and not a Church which is the bride of Christ,” he said,speaking in Italian without notes.

“He who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil. When we don’t proclaim Jesus Christ,we proclaim the worldliness of the devil,worldliness of the demon.”

China congratulated Pope Francis Thursday on his ascension to the papacy,but also warned the Vatican not to interfere in what it deems to be its internal affairs. The reaction underscored the tensions between the Vatican and China’s government,which has been accused of suppressing Catholicism under Communist rule.

In his first public appearance Wednesday before a huge crowd in St Peter’s Square,Francis,76,offered prayers for his predecessor,Benedict XVI,who last month became the first pope in centuries to retire,citing failing strength after a papacy lasting almost eight years.

He is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church,the first from the Americas and the first member of the Jesuit order to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. In choosing Francis,the cardinals sent a powerful message that the future of the church lies in the global south,home to the bulk of the world’s Catholics.

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