Pope Francis warned seminarians in Rome of the dangers of online pornography, in a transcript published by the Vatican Wednesday, calling soft porn a temptation that "weakens the priestly heart".
Francis' meeting at the Vatican on Monday saw the 86-year-old pontiff respond at length to a wide range of questions from priests and seminarians studying in Rome, from reconciling science and faith to trying to live virtuously amid personal shortcomings.
When asked, however, about how digital and social media should be best used to "share the joy of being Christians", the pope cautioned against obsessively watching the news, listening to music that distracts from one's work – before broaching a more serious risk.
"And on this (subject) there's also another thing, which you know well: digital pornography," he said, according to the transcript of the question and answer session.
"Each of you think if you've had the experience or had the temptation of digital pornography. It's a vice that so many people have, so many laymen, so many lay women, and even priests and nuns," Pope Francis said.
"And I'm not just talking about criminal pornography like child abuse, where you see live cases of abuse: that's already degeneracy. But of the more 'normal' pornography," he continued.
The Jesuit pope has condemned pornography before during his pontificate, most recently in June, when he called it "a permanent attack on the dignity of men and women", saying it should be declared a "threat to public health".
"Dear brothers, be careful of this. The pure heart, the heart that receives Jesus every day, cannot receive this pornographic information," he said on Monday, telling the audience to "delete it" from cell phones "so you won't have temptation in your hand".
"The devil enters from there: it weakens the priestly heart. Excuse me for going down to these details about pornography, but there is a reality: a reality that touches priests, seminarians, nuns, consecrated souls," he said.
"Do you understand? All right. This is important," he concluded, before taking a question about the importance of "gestures of mercy".