Pope Francis has ordered newly ordained bishops to “just say no to abuse – of power, conscience or any type” as he faces allegations that he covered up child sexual abuse.

The pontiff told the 75 bishops, hailing from 34 countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania, not to work “as lone actors outside the chorus” when he addressed them at the Vatican on Saturday.

“Saying no to abuse,” he said, “means saying no with force to every form of clericalism”.

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“The bishop can’t have all the gifts – the complete set of charisms – even though some think they do, poor things.”

Francis also warned the bishops against “conducting their own personal battles” and said they should instead listen to their “flock” and to priests, the Guardian reports.

The remarks come after a former Vatican diplomat to the US, Carlo Maria Viganò, broke with pontifical protocol by issuing a public letter claiming Francis knew the former archbishop of Washington Theodore McCarrick “was a corrupt man” but covered it up.

McCarrick, 88, resigned after allegations that he sexually abused children and adult seminarians over the course of his decades-long career. McCarrick maintains his innocence.

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In his letter, Viganò said he told the pontiff in June 2013 that there were numerous concerns and complaints about McCarrick, but that the pope did not respond and allowed McCarrick to continue in his prominent role as a public emissary for the church.

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