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Thursday 18 September 2014

Pope: Why I chose name Francis

Published 16/03/2013 | 10:06

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Pope Francis walks past a Swiss guard as he arrives for a meeting with the media in the Vatican (AP)
Pope Francis arrives at the Paul VI hall for a meeting with the media at the Vatican (AP)
Pope Francis gestures during a meeting with the media at the Vatican (AP)

Pope Francis has revealed that he was inspired to take the name of St Francis of Assisi because of his work for peace and the poor - and that he himself would like to see "a poor church and a church for the poor."

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"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 in the Vatican's auditorium.

Francis then 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.

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 that's how in my heart came the name Francis of Assisi," who devoted his life to the poor, missionary outreach and caring for God's creation.

St Francis of Assisi, the pope said, was "the man of the poor. The man of peace. The man who loved and cared for creation - and in this moment we don't have such a great relationship with creation. The man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man."

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.

The gathering in the Vatican begins a busy week for the pontiff that includes his installation Mass on Tuesday.

Among the talks, the Vatican said, will be a session with the president of Francis' homeland Argentina on Monday. The pope has sharply criticised Christina Fernandez over her support for liberal measures such as gay marriage and free contraceptives.

But the most closely watched appointment will be Francis' journey next Saturday to the hills south of Rome at the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo for lunch with Benedict XVI, a historic encounter that brings together the new pope and the first pope to resign in six centuries, which set in motion the stunning papal transition.

Benedict has promised to remain outside church affairs and dedicate himself to prayer and meditation. Pope Francis, however, has shown no reluctance to invoke Benedict's legacy and memory, in both an acknowledgement of the unusual dimensions of his papacy and also a message that he is comfortable with the situation and is now fully in charge.

Press Association

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