VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis denounced corrupt politicians, businessmen and priests for the second day in a row last week, scaling up his criticisms as prosecutors crack down on a series of bribery scandals afflicting several major public projects in Italy.
Francis referred to the corruption headlines that have been filling Italian newspapers for weeks during his morning homily, saying the poor are hurt most by such crimes since they suffer when hospitals don't have affordable medicines or schools their materials.
"The corrupt politician, the corrupt businessman, the corrupt priest: all three hurt the innocents, the poor, because it's the poor who pay for the parties of the corrupt," he said. "The bill goes to them."
The pope said the only way out for those who exploit others for their personal gain is to beg forgiveness and return what they have wrongly taken through service to others.
The issue is not new to Francis: As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis frequently railed against corruption and in 2005 published a booklet, "Corruption and Sin," which reproduced an article he had originally written in 1991.
Last week, five people, including an official with Italy's culture ministry, were arrested in connection with a bribery scandal involving the rebuilding of the historic center of L'Aquila, which was devastated by a 2009 earthquake.
Earlier this month, Venice's mayor and more than 30 other people were arrested in a sweeping corruption scandal involving a $34 million slush fund used to finance political campaigns that came from the public coffers of the project to build underwater barriers to protect Venice from flooding.