The Catholic Church could fall ‘like a house of cards’ if it continues in its obsession with abortion, gay marriage and contraception, the pope has warned.
In a remarkable 12,000 word interview to mark six months in the church’s top job, Francis said he was resolved to reform the church, which had a tendency to get caught up in ‘small minded things ‘.
He said: ‘We need to find a new balance otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall into a house of cards.’
‘It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,’ he said.
‘We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.’
The extraordinarily frank interview, conducted by a Jesuit priest in Rome, was published simultaneously by 16 of the order’s newspapers around the world.
In a typically humble stance Francis declared himself a sinner.
‘This is the most accurate definition,’ he said, when asked what sort of man he was. ‘It is not a figure of speech or a literary genre. I am a sinner.’
He also claimed he had made mistakes earlier on during his career as Archbishop of Buenos Aires and had a propensity to become ‘authoritarian.’
Because of this he had been wrongly perceived as ultra-conservative, he said.
The interview was not entirely self critical – Francis claimed to be so conscientious, that he prays even when at the dentist.
The pontiff insisted that he worships morning, noon and night and even falls asleep in the midst of a silent prayer.
He said: “I pray the breviary every morning… Then, later, I celebrate Mass…What I really prefer is adoration in the evening, even when I get distracted and think of other things, or even fall asleep praying.. But I pray mentally even when I am waiting at the dentist.’
He also hinted at a greater female role in the church hierarchy, saying ‘the deep questions of women must be addressed.’
He himself was only alive because of the work of a nun he said. When in hospital with a infection that eventually took his lung, a nun went against doctors orders to increase the dose of penicillin.
Francis explained: ‘The sister who was on duty tripled my doses because she was daringly astute; she knew what to do because she was with ill people all day.
While asserting that he was determined to bring in reforms, Francis also hinted at the pressures he has faced since becoming Pope. He has previously said that he feels like he is in a cage.
In the interview, which in the UK is published by Thinking Faith, he spoke of ‘a great darkness’ that came over him on the day he was elected, and which accompanied him until his election later that day.
Explaining why he chooses to live among visiting priests in a humble Vatican guesthouse, he said the papal apartment was like ‘a funnel’ through which people could only enter ‘in dribs and drabs’.
When he went to enter the accommodation for the first time God told him not to, he said. ‘When I took possession of the papal apartment, inside myself I distinctly heard a ‘no.’
‘[The papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace] is like an inverted funnel. It is big and spacious, but the entrance is really tight. People can come only in dribs and drabs, and I cannot live without people.
Read more: Daily Mail