11 January 2016
Over in the Vatican Pope Francis says he wants the Catholic Church to be more welcoming to gays and divorcees, claiming that he himself is a sinner and would probably be in jail if he weren't the pope.
In a recently published book the pontiff sets out his personal thoughts on questions such as church corruption and reveals that debates within the church over issues such as divorce had an effect on the lives of members of his own family.
Entitled "The Name of God is Mercy", the book has been described as a counter-thrust against conservative cardinals and bishops who have pushed back against the pope's reformist inclinations.
Francis goes further than ever before in explaining his thinking on homosexuality, insisting that gay people should be welcomed into the church and that people should not be "defined" by their sexuality.
He condemns corruption, pride and hypocrisy in the church, with an attack on clergy who request bribes and priests who ask intrusive and lurid sex-related questions in the confessional.
Setting out to redefine Catholicism by shaking off its centuries-old image as a stern moral judge, the pope says emphatically that mercy, not just simple condemnation, is the "most important message" of Christianity and is "God's identity card".
In a marked departure from the style of his predecessors' publications, the book is peppered with references to his own life and those of people he knew.
However, Francis emphasises that, far from renouncing traditional moral teaching, the church "condemns sin". But "At the same time, it embraces the sinner who recognises himself as such, it welcomes him, it speaks to him of the infinite mercy of God. Jesus forgave even those who crucified and scorned him - we must go back to the gospel."
Francis describes himself as a sinner and says he might well have ended up as a prisoner instead of pope had circumstances been different.