Catholic Church

Pope Francis calls for a poor church for the poor

New pope says he chose his name to reflect Francis of Assisi who shunned riches

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 March, 2013, 7:26am

Pope Francis called for "a poor Church for the poor" as he addressed thousands of the world's journalists yesterday, saying he chose his papal name because St Francis of Assisi shunned riches to help the destitute.

The special audience with reporters in a Vatican auditorium was billed as a sign of the greater openness that has characterised the new pope's first days in office.

In between bursts of applause from the audience, the 76-year-old said his papal name was inspired by St Francis of Assisi, who was "a man of poverty and a man of peace".

"How I would like a poor Church for the poor!" he said.

Francis described the emotional moments immediately after his election in a conclave in the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday, offering a rare insight from a pope into deliberations which are supposed to remain secret.

He explained that, when the cardinals elected him, he had been sitting next to Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo.

"He hugged me and kissed me and told me not to forget the poor. And that word went in here," Francis said, pointing to his head. "I immediately thought of Francis of Assisi," he said.

"Francis of Assisi for me is a man of poverty, a man of peace, a man who loved and protected creation. Right now our relations with creation are not going very well," he added.

He then joked that some other cardinals suggested other names: Hadrian VI, after a great church reformer - a reference to the need for the pope to clean up the Vatican's messy bureaucracy. Someone else suggested Clement XV, to get even with Clement XIV, who suppressed the Jesuit order in 1773.

Showing the informal style that is already characterising his reign, Francis departed from the script to tell the journalists: "You've worked, hey? You've worked!" He has urged Catholic leaders to shun worldly glories and lead a spiritual renewal in the Church that will reach "the ends of the earth", or risk becoming little more than a charity with no spiritual foundation.

The Vatican said Francis would meet his predecessor Benedict XVI next Saturday at the papal summer residence Castel Gandolfo outside Rome where the now "pope emeritus" has been staying since his historic resignation last month.

Francis's inauguration mass will take place on Tuesday - the Feast of St Joseph, the patron saint of the universal church.

He has urged the faithful in Argentina not to travel to Italy for the mass but rather to donate the money for the trip to charity. Nonetheless, more than a million people are expected to throng Rome and heads of state from all over the world will attend.