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Pope Warns Of Catholic Church 'House Of Cards'
The Pope has warned that the Catholic Church could "fall like a house of cards" if it fails to balance its rules on abortion and homosexuality with the greater need to be merciful.
Pope Francis set out his vision for the church in a wide-ranging 12,000-word interview in which he also said that women needed to be involved in important decisions.
The Argentinian pontiff, who is six months into his papacy, also discussed his favourite composers, artists and authors and films, revealing he is a fan of Mozart, Caravaggio, Dostoevsky and Fellini's La Strada.
And in an insight into his own world, disclosed that he prays even while at the dentist.
He said: "The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.
"We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel."
He said: "The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials."
The candid interview with La Civilta Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit magazine, was published simultaneously on Thursday in Jesuit journals in 16 countries, including America magazine in the US.
His vision of what the church should be stands out, primarily because it contrasts so sharply with many of the priorities of his immediate predecessors.
In July Pope Francis has made some of the most conciliatory remarks of any pontiff on gay people, saying he did not judge homosexuals who "seek the Lord".
He told reporters following a week-long visit to Brazil that people should not be marginalised because of their sexual orientation and asked "who am I to judge?"
In his interview he expanded on his views on homosexuality by saying: "A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: 'Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?'
"We must always consider the person. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing."
Pope Francis said that it was time to "investigate further the role of women in the church ? The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions".
But he cautioned: "The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules."
And he added: "We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.
"The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."
Pope Francis, the first Jesuit to become pope, was interviewed over three days in August at the Vatican hotel where he chose to live rather than the papal apartments.
The Rev James Martin, editor at large for America magazine, which also carries the interview, said: "The America interview shows a gentle pastor who looks upon people as individuals, not categories.
"It also shows a very human Francis: He seemingly had no qualms about admitting that his tenure as superior of Argentina's Jesuit order in the 1970s - starting at the 'crazy' age of 36 - was difficult because of his 'authoritarian' temperament."