Pope explains name, urges 'church for poor'

Francis of Assisi, 'the man of peace, came into my heart'
2013-03-17T00:00:00Z 2013-09-10T16:34:46Z Pope explains name, urges 'church for poor'The Associated Press The Associated Press
March 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

VATICAN CITY - The focus of Pope Francis' papacy began to emerge Saturday as he offered some intimate insights into the conclave that elected him pontiff.

He described how he was immediately inspired to name himself after St. Francis of Assisi because he wants to see a church that is "for the poor."

His comments provided further evidence that this first Latin American papacy would be one that looks beyond the confines of the church itself to the most disadvantaged. Francis is named for a 13th-century friar who renounced a wealthy, dissolute lifestyle to embrace a life of poverty and simplicity and go out in the countryside to preach a message of joy and peace.

"Let me tell you a story," Pope Francis began in a break from his prepared text during an audience for a few thousand journalists and Vatican communications officials in the Vatican's auditorium.

Francis then described how during the conclave he was comforted by his friend, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, as the votes were going his way and it seemed "a bit dangerous" that he would reach the two-thirds necessary to be elected.

When the threshold was reached, applause erupted in the frescoed Sistine Chapel.

"He (Hummes) hugged me. He kissed me. He said, 'Don't forget about the poor!' " Francis recalled.

"And those words came to me: The poor. The poor. Then right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars as the votes were being counted, until the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi."

The pope said some have wondered whether his name was a reference to other Franciscan figures, including St. Francis de Sales or even the co-founder of the pope's own Jesuit order, St. Francis Xavier. But he said the inspiration was Francis of Assisi.

Sitting in the vast Vatican auditorium, Francis continued: "For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation. These days we don't have a very good relationship with creation, do we?" he said. "He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man.

"Oh how I would like a church which is poor and for the poor!" Francis said, sighing.

The pope's admiration for Francis' simplicity is evident in his own lifestyle: The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio took the bus to work, and lived in a Spartan apartment where he turned the heat off on weekends and cooked his own meals.

In one of his first acts as pope, Francis phoned the Vatican ambassador in Buenos Aires and told him to put out the word that he didn't want ordinary Argentines flocking to Rome for his installation Mass, urging them to use the money instead for charity.

Bergoglio never favored liberation theology, the Latin American-inspired view that Jesus' teachings imbue followers with a duty to fight for social and economic justice, because of its alliances with armed leftist guerrilla movements in the 1970s.

But as a priest and later archbishop, he saw to it that every slum in Buenos Aires had a chapel and fostered many outreach programs, supporting former prostitutes and drug addicts and washing the feet of rehab patients. When the economy collapsed in 2001, and Argentines lost faith in their politicians, he denounced capitalist excesses and corruption from the pulpit.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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