Pope Francis addresses journalists on the papal plane to Rome (AFP Photo/Giuseppe Cacace)
There are corrupt people and institutions within the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has acknowledged.
Talking to reporters on board the papal flight from Manila to Rome on Monday, the pontiff citied a 1994 experience when he was auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires.
He said he was approached by two government officials who had a compelling offer.
“‘You have so much need here with so many poor,’” the pope recalled them saying. He said they offered him the equivalent of US$400,000.
“I listened because when the offer is so big, the offer challenges even a saint. But they went on: ‘To do this, we make the deposit and then you give us half for ourselves.’”
The offer shocked the future pope.
“In that moment I thought about what I would do: either I insult them and give them a kick where the sun doesn’t shine, or I play the fool,” he said. “I played the fool.”
Pope Francis said he politely declined the offer, suggesting the government officials donate the money — with a receipt.
“We must ask for forgiveness for these Catholics, those Christians who cause a scandal because of their corruption,” he said.
The pontiff made the comments at the end of his five-day visit to the Philippines, where he urged Filipinos to "reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor".
A 2008 World Bank study suggested corruption in the Philippines was among the worst in East Asia’s leading economies.
However, the country has sought to try and tackle corruption in recent years following some high-profile scandals such as the congressional “pork barrel” scheme.
The Philippines ranked 85 out of 175 countries on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) last year, up from 105 in 2012.
According to local media, the country’s Catholic bishops this week met in private in Manila to discuss the messages Pope Francis delivered during his trip — including the issue of corruption.
Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa told reporters after the meeting that the bishops have to do "some soul-searching because corruption has entered the Church,” according to a report in Manila Standard Today.