Pope wants 'Church for the poor'

ROME - The Church should go back to its roots, shed its riches and concentrate on looking after the poor, Pope Francis said on Saturday.

  • Published: 16/03/2013 at 05:49 PM
  • Newspaper section: news

"Ah, how I would like a poor Church, for the poor," Francis said in a meeting with the world's media, a traditional event for popes following their election.

He confirmed that he choose his name in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi, the medieval monk and Patron Saint of Italy famous for renouncing his family's wealth to live in poverty and for his love of nature.

The Argentine-born Jorge Mario Bergoglio charmed reporters, thanking them for their coverage of the conclave and telling them: "You have worked hard, haven't you?"

Bergoglio was elected on Wednesday, on the second day of the conclave. He succeeded Benedict XVI, who resigned last month, saying he was too old to continue in his job. It was the first papal resignation in 600 years.

The ensuing papal election was portrayed by media as a contest between reformists and traditionalists, on the back of reports of infighting and divisions within the Vatican hierarchy.

Pope Francis waves upon arrival for a private audience with members of the media at the Vatican on Sunday. (AFP Photo)

But while stressing that the ecclesiastical events were not "more complicated" than political or economic ones, Francis insisted that the Catholic Church "is not a political body, but essentially a spiritual one."

"Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit who has inspired the decision of Benedict XVI for the good of the Church, who has directed the prayers and the voting of the Cardinals. It is important to keep this in mind," the pontiff said.

Francis is due to deliver his first Angelus prayers on Sunday and be inaugurated with a mass in Saint Peter's Square on Tuesday, which will be attended by many world leaders, including the leader of his home country.

The Vatican said that Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, with whom Bergoglio clashed repeatedly in his previous role as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, would be granted a papal audience on Monday.

It also said that Francis will meet with Benedict on Saturday, as he will travel to the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo to have lunch with his predecessor.

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