Pope sets out his radical blueprint for a 'bruised, hurting and dirty' church
Poverty could 'explode' into violence -- Francis
Pope Francis called for the Vatican to place mercy above an "obsession" with moral doctrine, using his first major document of his papacy to lay out a radical blueprint for a Catholic Church that was "bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets".
The "slum Pope", as Francis has been nicknamed for his work in the shanty towns of his native Argentina, also attacked global capitalism, saying that rising levels of inequality and poverty could "explode" into conflict unless addressed by world leaders.
"The poor 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.
The Pope laid out his vision for the future of the Catholic Church in an 85-page document that Vatican observers described as a "blueprint" and a "Magna Carta" for his papacy.
He called for power to be decentralised away from Rome and towards bishops and priests working in Catholic dioceses around the world.
"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," the Jesuit Pope wrote in the document, formally known as an "apostolic exhortation" to the faithful.
The church must not allow itself to be "caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures", he wrote, in what amounted to a mission statement for the Holy See.
It was time for "a conversion of the papacy" because "excessive centralisation, rather than proving helpful, complicates the church's life," said the pontiff, who has made reform of the Vatican's dysfunctional finances and administration a priority of his papacy.
The poor and marginalised were the victims of an unjust global economic system that regarded profit as being more important than people, he said.
"Such an economy kills. 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 two points?"
Pope Francis, who was elected in March after the shock resignation of Benedict XVI, said he was even "open to suggestions" on changes to his own powers.
"It is my duty, as the Bishop of Rome, to be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it," he wrote.
Centuries-old customs and traditions should be cast aside if they got in the way of the church communicating its core message, he said.
"This is a sort of Magna Carta document which shows he really intends to shake things up," John Thavis, who has covered the Vatican for 30 years and is the author of a recent book, 'The Vatican Diaries', said.
"He's challenging at every level the complacency of the church. He's going to the heart of the church's mission, which is to evangelise, and he's saying 'We're not doing it well enough, things need to change.' I think he's planning a big programme of decentralisation."
Despite the often radical, heart-felt language of the document, known in Latin as 'Evangelii Gaudium' or 'The Joy of the Gospel', Pope Francis said there would be no doctrinal changes on core issues such as abortion, gay marriage and women priests.
Although he firmly ruled out the ordination of women priests, he did repeat calls for women to be given a greater role in decision-making within the Catholic Church.
On abortion, he said the church "cannot be expected to change her position on this question".
"This is a papal document with a difference," said Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. "It contains a radical look at the crisis of poverty in our world and at the role of economics." (© Daily Telegraph London)