Pope Francis laid out his platform on Tuesday in an "exhortation" in which he attacked capitalism and called for church reform but ruled out women priests and said abortion was not open to discussion.
Pope Francis called unfettered capitalism "a new tyranny", said he was in favour of reform to take power from the Vatican, but ruled out allowing women to become priests in a document released by the Vatican on Tuesday.
In an "apostolic exhortation" Francis urged Catholics to be more engaged in helping the needy and beseeched global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality as he set out a platform for his papacy and called for a renewal of the Catholic Church.
The 84-page document was the first major work he has written alone as pope and makes official many views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became pontiff in March.
Francis criticised the "idolatry of money", and urged politicians to "attack the structural causes of inequality" and strive to provide work, healthcare and education to all citizens.
He called on rich people to share their wealth.
"Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills," Francis wrote.
"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?"
Aggression and conflict
"The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode," he said.
He called for action "beyond a simple welfare mentality" and added: "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."
The document did not address many of the hot-button reforms called for by progressives but Francis did say that the issue of the priesthood being reserved for men was "not a question open to discussion".
On abortion, he said the Church "cannot be expected to change its position".
But he added that it should do more "to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution".
The pope said renewal of the Church could not be put off and said the Vatican and its entrenched hierarchy "also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion". He said "excessive centralisation, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church's life".
"I prefer a Church which is 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," he wrote.
Called "Evangelii Gaudium" (The Joy of the Gospel), the exhortation, in Francis' simple preaching style, contrasts with more academic writings of former popes, and stresses the Church's central mission of spreading the gospel.
The exhortation echoed the zeal often heard from evangelical Protestants who have won over disaffected Catholics in the pope's native Latin America.
Since his election, Francis has set an example for austerity, living in a Vatican guest house rather than the ornate Apostolic Palace, travelling in a Ford Focus. Last month he suspended a bishop who spent millions of euros on his luxurious residence.
Turning to other faiths, Francis said that ties with Islam had taken on "great importance" for the Catholic Church because of the growing number of Muslim immigrants in many traditionally Christian countries.
"We Christians should 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," he said.
Much of the exhortation was devoted to spiritual issues, particularly the need for a more joyful approach to faith reflected in the document's Latin title "Evangelii Gaudium" (The Joy of the Gospel).
"There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter," he said, adding that the Christian message should not be "a catalogue of sins and faults" and should be about striving for "the good of others".
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Original headline: ITALY - Pope attacks capitalism and calls for church reform
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