Pope Francis has delivered a fiery sermon against corruption, quoting a passage from the Bible in which Jesus said some sinners deserved to be tied to a rock and thrown into the sea.
In one of his strongest homilies since he was elected in March, the Pontiff said Christians who led "a double life" by giving money to the church while stealing from the state were sinners who deserved to be punished.
Quoting from the Gospel of St Luke in the New Testament, he said: "Jesus says it would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea."
While he did not allude directly to corruption within the Roman Catholic Church, his remarks yesterday came just days after a scandal erupted inside an ancient religious order linked to the Vatican, and as he forged ahead with a determined effort to root out cronyism within the Holy See and financial irregularities in the scandal-tainted Vatican bank.
The Pope described people engaged in corruption as "whitewashed tombs", explaining that "they appear beautiful from the outside, but inside they are full of dead bones and putrefaction". A life based on corruption was "varnished putrefaction", he said.
The Pope may have been hailed for adopting a softer, more inclusive stance on sensitive subjects such as homosexuality and divorce since his election in March, but his sermons and homilies often include stern, fire-and-brimstone language and references to the Devil.
The Pope made the remarks during his daily morning Mass inside Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse. It was the second time in just a few days that he had targeted the evils of corruption.
Last Friday he had strong words for Catholics who grew wealthy from graft and used tainted money to shower their children with gifts and send them to expensive schools. "Those who take kickbacks have lost their dignity and give their children dirty bread," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)