Pope Francis, giving his clearest indication yet that he wants a more austere Catholic Church, said on Saturday that it should be poor and remember that its mission is to serve the poor.
The pope made his comments in an audience with journalists, explaining why he chose to take the name Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi, a symbol of peace, austerity and poverty. He called Francis “The man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man,” and added “How I would like a poor Church, and for the poor”.
Since his shock election on Wednesday, the pope has made clear that he would be introducing a different style to the papacy after Pope Benedict’s resignation last month.
On the night he was elected he shunned the papal limousine and traveled on a bus with other cardinals who had elected him. The next day he returned to the Church-run hotel and insisted on paying the bill.
In other parts of his Italian address he said that Catholics should remember that Jesus is the centre of the Church and not the pope. Francis is taking the helm of the 1.2 billion-member Church at a time of crisis over the worldwide sexual abuse scandal as well as scandals involving intrigue and alleged corruption in the Vatican bureaucracy.
He said the Church, like any institution, had “virtues and sins” and urged journalists to focus on “truth, goodness and beauty”.
Pope Francis also offered intimate insights on Saturday into the moments after his election to journalists. “Let me tell you a story,” Francis said in a break from his prepared text during a special gathering for thousands of journalists, media workers and guests. He described how he was comforted by his friend, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, as it appeared the voting was going his way and it seemed “a bit dangerous” that he would reach the two-thirds necessary to be elected.