IN his first public Mass, Pope Francis urged the Catholic Church today to stick to its roots and shun modern temptations, warning that it would become just "a compassionate NGO" if it forgot its true mission.
The Argentinian pope, addressing cardinals in the Sistine Chapel where he was elected pontiff yesterday, said the Church should be more focused 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, the worldliness of the demon."
Francis took the helm of the 1.2 billion-member Church at a time of strife and intrigue, with the Vatican rocked by a string of sex abuse scandals, by accusations of infighting within its central government and by allegations of financial wrongdoing.
"We must always walk in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, always trying to live in an irreprehensible way," he said in a heartfelt homily of a parish priest, loaded with biblical references and simple imagery.
"When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we proclaim Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly," he said.
"We may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, all of this, but we are not disciples of the Lord," he said.
He said those who build on worldly values instead of spiritual values were like children building sand castles on a beach. "Then everything comes crashing down," he said.
His sermon was a stark contrast to that of his predecessor, Pope Benedict, who read out his first homily in Latin in 2005, establishing his broad vision for Church.
Benedict abdicated last month, saying he no longer had the strength to lead the world's largest organisation.