Pope Francis has warned priests can become “little monsters” if they are not trained properly while studying as seminarians.
The Pontiff also warned against accepting men for the priesthood who may have been implicated in sexual abuse, saying the protection of the Catholic faithful is most important.
Francis made the comments during a closed-door meeting of 120 superiors of religious orders on 29 November at the Vatican. On Friday, the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica provided a report of the informal question-and-answer session. The Vatican has not provided a transcript of the magazine.
He said: “If the seminary is too large, it ought to be divided into smaller communities who are equipped really to accompany those in their charge.
“Formation is a work of art, not a police action. We must form their hearts. Otherwise we are creating little monsters”.
The magazine first interviewed Pope Francis last year.
Francis, the first Jesuit pope, is quoted as telling the Superiors he wants them to “wake up the world” with their work, particularly with the poor.
The magazine also reported the Pope ignored requests from the Superiors for a brief meeting and instead “wished to spend the whole morning with them”. He ended the meeting at 12.30pm "as the dentist was waiting for him".
Additional reporting by the Associated Press