VATICAN CITY -- In his first mass as head of the Roman Catholic church, Pope Francis delivered a stern homily in the Sistine Chapel, where cardinals had elected him as the 266th pope a day earlier.
Stressing the power of prayer, Francis told the cardinals, “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.”
Standing before Michelangelo’s fresco of the “Last Judgment,” the new pontiff added, “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 added, “We may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, all of this, but we are not disciples of the Lord.”
Francis issued a strong warning to the cardinals, telling them the Catholic Church risks becoming a compassionate nongovernment organization unless it sticks to its spiritual path.
Building a solid Church, he added, was vital to stop it from crumbling like a “sand castle” built by children.
Francis, 76, was elected as the Vatican faces a series of scandals concerning alleged corruption, infighting and sexual abuse, which weakened the papacy of Benedict XVI, who resigned Feb. 28.
Francis, who is from Argentina, is the first non-European pontiff since the 8th century. After his election, he charmed crowds Wednesday night in St. Peter’s Square with an informal speech in which he asked people to pray to God to bless him.
The pope is expected to meet the College of Cardinals informally Friday before holding an audience with journalists Saturday. On Sunday, he is to give his first angelus in St Peter’s Square, before his installation ceremony, set for Tuesday.