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Marketing cannot restore church image after abuse crisis: pope

Pope Francis issued a warning to US bishops on Thursday, saying in a letter that using marketing tricks or flow charts would not restore trust in the Catholic church following the sex abuse crisis.

Pope
Pope Francis

“Loss of credibility calls for a specific approach, since it cannot be regained by issuing stern decrees or by simply creating new committees or improving flow charts, as if we were in charge of a department of human resources,” Francis wrote.

Attempts to restore the centuries-old institution’s credibility must be based on rebuilding trust, he wrote, rather than “concern with marketing or strategizing to reclaim lost prestige or to seek accolades”.

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The pontiff also warned against reducing the church’s mission to the administration of an “evangelisation business”.

The US bishops were gathered at a Chicago-area seminary for a prayer summit in advance of a historic gathering that the pope has called for in February at the Vatican, to discuss the ongoing crisis roiling the church.

A litany of child sexual abuse scandals has rocked the Catholic church, which has 1.3 billion followers around the world, with the pope as recently as December accepting the resignation of a US auxiliary bishop over his “misconduct” with a minor.

Francis has struggled to resolve the problem as the steady drip of scandal corrodes the church’s authority amid sharp divisions in Rome over how to handle the fallout.

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