Church must be 'refuge for the poor'
Pope Francis, starting four packed days of events culminating in Easter, said yesterday the church must always be a refuge for the poor, the homeless and the sick.
The Pontiff, who since his election last year has urged priests to shun material comforts or the urge to climb clerical career ladders, led a solemn Holy Thursday service on the day that Christians commemorate the founding of the priesthood by Jesus.
In St Peter's Basilica, he celebrated a "Mass of the Chrism" during which he and priests renewed the vows they took on the day of their ordination.
At the Mass, attended by some 10,000 people, he delivered a sermon on the need for priests to live a simple, poor life.
He described the church as "a house with open doors, a refuge for sinners, a home for people living on the streets, a place of loving care for the sick, a camp for the young, a classroom".
On Good Friday and Holy Saturday, Francis presides at three services leading up to Easter Sunday, when he delivers his "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) blessing and message.
On Sunday, Francis will canonise Pope John Paul II, who reigned from 1978 to 2005, and Pope John XXIII, who was pontiff from 1958 to 1963 and called the Second Vatican Council – a landmark meeting that modernised the Church.