Pope Francis gave his blessing to the use of tattoos, telling an audience of young people not to fear them but to see tattoos as an opportunity for community and dialogue.
The pontiff was addressing a pre-Synodal meeting of young people at the Vatican, according to Vatican News. There a Ukranian seminarian asked how priests-in-training might 'respond to the complexities of present day culture – like tatoos for instance?'
'Do not be scared of tattoos,' the Pope responded, as reported by ChurchPOP. 'The Eritreans for years made the cross here [indicating the forehead]. Also today we see them. The cross was tattooed. Yes, they are exaggerations, but today I see some.'
He added: 'Tattoos often signify membership in a community. You, young man, that you're tattooed like that, what are you looking for? In this tattoo, which community membership are you expressing?
'It's important not to be scared. With young people one should never be scared! Never! Because always, even behind the things that are not so good, there is something that will bring us to some truth.'
Speaking more broadly about the challenges of priesthood, he warned against the damage that 'gossip' could do to the bond between a priest and his community.
But he also condemned clericalism – undue power granted to religious authorities – which he called 'one of the worst illnesses of the Church'.
Clericalism, he said, confuses the 'paternal role of the priest' with the 'managerial role of the boss' – the priest should fundamentally be a 'witness to Christ'.