VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has told bishops to strongly denounce corruption and to act more like pastors than "pilots" telling the faithful what to do.
Francis' strong words were aimed at members of the Italian bishops' conference, who opened their annual meeting at the Vatican on Monday. Francis, who is also the bishop of Rome, urged his bishops to be more Christ-like in showing humility, compassion, mercy and wisdom.
He told them to not shy away from denouncing the "diffuse mentality" of public and private corruption that he said impoverished families, honest workers and retirees, while marginalizing the neediest and depriving young people of hope. Italy is rife with corruption scandals, and its youth unemployment rate stands at 43 percent.
Francis asked the bishops to reinforce the "indispensable role" of ordinary folk in their dioceses. "In reality, lay people who have an authentic Christian formation shouldn't need a bishop-pilot, or a monsignor-pilot, or clerical input to assume their responsibilities at every level, from political to social, economic to legislative," he said.
"Rather, what they all need is a Bishop Pastor!"
He complained that often official church documents are too heavy on doctrine and theory "as if our orientation isn't aimed at our people and country but rather students and specialists."
Francis has complained about an over-emphasis on doctrine and "small-minded rules" and lamented that theologians can get in the way of the church's evangelizing work. On Monday, he urged bishops to make sure their documents "are translated in concrete and comprehensible proposals."
Francis also complained that the church often organizes conferences where "the same voices" are heard over and over, an apparent reference to the practice of hosting only like-minded speakers at church-sponsored academic conferences.
Francis said such a practice "drugs the community, homogenizing choices, opinions and people." He urged bishops to instead go "where the Holy Spirit asks them to go."