Pope Francis said Wednesday that clergy who were “careerists” or “social climbers” were doing serious damage to the Catholic Church, his latest utterance aimed at instilling a sense of frugality and service in the Vatican and beyond.

Francis, 76, the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, made the comments while addressing a gathering of superiors general of orders of nuns from around the world.

“Men and women of the church who are careerists, social climbers, who use the people, the church, brothers and sisters — those they should serve — as a springboard for their own ambitions and personal interests do great damage to the church,” he said.

“We learn poverty from the humble, the poor, the sick,” he added, urging clergy to work with those on the margins of society and to shun the “idols of materialism” that cloud the true meaning of life.

“We have no use for theoretical poverty,” the pontiff said, departing from his prepared text.

Since his election March 13, Francis has made it clear through his words and by example that he wants clergy to live simpler lives, to serve the poor and to shun temptations of power.

He has decided against living in the luxurious papal apartments in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace used by his predecessors, opting instead for a small suite in a guesthouse, where he shares meals with other residents.

In his address, Francis appeared to be sending a message not only to priests, nuns and bishops who serve the 1.2 billion-
member Catholic Church, but also to bureaucrats in the Vatican.

Francis has inherited a Vatican rocked by a scandal in which documents leaked to the media spoke of alleged corruption in the Vatican’s administration and depicted prelates as fighting among themselves to advance their careers.

Before the conclave that elected Francis, cardinals called for changes to the Curia, the church’s administrative body, to make it a model of good governance, including introducing term limits on bureaucrats.

— Reuters