Pope Francis: I want Church to be Poor

Last March 19, 2013, the pontificate of His Holiness, Pope Francis, officially began and with it comes the revitalized hope of a more active pastoral mission of the Catholic Church whose mission according to the new Pope is "to defend the poor, the weakest, the least important, the disabled, the disadvantaged and the environment".

Early on, after he was elected as the new Roman Pontiff, Pope Francis, already hinted that he wanted a poor church ready to serve others, he also sets tone for a humbler papacy, simple and modest.

How he got the name "Francis"

In a press conference held days after he became the 266th Vicar of Jesus Christ, His Holiness, Pope Francis  emphasized his intention to renew the Catholic Church and bring back the Catholic faithful to its fold after some of the believers became fascinated with evangelical groups. 

Speaking before the members of journalists, the 76-year old successor to the throne of St. Peter shared how he came up with the name "Francis".

"Let me tell you a story", he begins, describing the tension of the last few hours inside the Sistine Chapel when the deliberation became "a bit dangerous" that he would reach the required two-thirds of the votes,   his friend, Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil approached him.

"He hugged me and kissed me and said don't forget about the poor, that's how in my heart came the name of St. Francis of Assisi", the Pope continued. "St. Francis devoted his life to the poor, to the nature and taking care all of God's creation". Pope Francis also said he thought about his concern for wars and remembered St. Francis as a man of peace.

He also commented that some have wondered whether his name was a reference to the co-founder of the Jesuit order he formerly belonged, Francis Xavier, but Pope Francis reiterated he got an inspiration from St. Francis of Assisi because "he was the man of the poor who gave up his fortune to serve God".

"Oh how I would like a poor church and a church for the poor", the Holy Father sighed. His declaration sounded like a signal what he wanted to do with his leadership. He already showed signs that he does not want pomp and grandeur. A day after his election he returned to a hotel where he stayed after arriving from Argentina for the Conclave and paid his bill.

The Charming Pope

He already won multitude, including the media, with his unique charm and fresh air of naturalness. He smiled too often and dashed to the crowd without bothering too much about the risk of his life much to the horror of his security guards who scrambled to their feet to protect him while shaking hands to people. People began noticing the stark difference between him and his introvert and scholarly predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. 
Greeting the crowd that assembled at St. Peter's sqaure

On Sunday, March 17, he surprised everyone in the Vatican when after celebrating the mass, he stood at the church entrance, smiling, opening his arms and greeted the tourists and pilgrims. He also hugged and kissed the children. This change of style of the Pope which was very rare and last seen from Pope John Paul II,  gave so much anxiety to his security details who feared that his openness might posed risk to his life.

But the new Pope is determined to get nearer to the people especially the underprivileged and the weak. Last week, he was also seen reaching to a disabled man and gave his blessing.

"He has a special relationship with creation", according to one Italian broadcaster.

The Papal Inauguration 

Pope Francis was officially installed as Supreme Head of the Universal Church and Head of the State of Vatican last March 19, 2013 at St. Peter's Square in a ceremony attended by thousands of faithful and heads of state around the world.

Before the ceremony started he went to the tomb of St. Peter to pray and toured around the square to greet the crowd in an open jeepney, breaking tradition again of riding in a bullet proof papal mobile.

At the start of the mass, the Pope received the fisherman's ring, used as both symbol of papacy and papal seal.

The inauguration started with a mass. In his homily he pleaded for world peace and harmony "Please," he said, "Let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment, do not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world".
With Argentina president, Cristina Kirchner 

He said he wanted to open his arms to the whole humanity, especially to the poorest, the weakest, the least important, the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked and the prisoners.

"Today amidst so much darkness we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others, to protect creation, to look upon them with tenderness and love

In Argentina, thousands had gathered in the plaza before the big screen to watch the ceremony in Rome and the crowd were surprised when the Pope called from Vatican and announced, his voice boomed in the loudspeakers installed in the plaza, "I want to ask a favor", he said, "I want to ask you to walk with me and take care of one another and don't forget that this bishop who is far away loves you very much. Pray for me".

Early on, he told a church official in Argentina to tell Argentines not to come to Rome for his inauguration instead donate the money they intend to spend traveling to various charities.

More than 100 official delegations came into Vatican composed of heads of states, presidents, European royals and leaders of different religious organizations. The united states was represented by Vice President, Joe Biden, a Roman Catholic. Argentina was represented by its President, Cristina Kirchner, who had a thorny relationship with Pope Francis when he directly criticized her of approving same sex marriage and  the use of contraceptives. Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country in Asia, was represented by Vice President, Jejomar Binay. Catholic royals in Europe also attended. Prince Albert of Monaco with his wife, Princess Charlene, Prince Felipe of Spain and his wife, Princess Letezia and others.

Marked with Simplicity

Determined to live in less grandeur and pageantry, Pope Francis shunned the elegance and sophistication of  papal wardrobe and accessories and chose to wear just simple religious fashion. For his installation ceremony, he wore a white cassock without an elegant red cape and like the Blessed John Paul II, the new Pope also declined to wear a pair of red velvet shoes traditionally wore by Popes.

His Holiness, Pope Francis, shunned elegance and chose to wear a simple papal robe 
during his inauguration last March 19, 2013, he also turned down wearing a pair of red velvet Prada shoes, traditionally worn by Roman Pontiffs, because it represents luxury

Instead of a golden cross, Pope Francis wore the iron version which he had been wearing since 1992. He also chose to wear a modest silver papal ring, officially known as a fisherman's ring, instead of gold.

According to Rome jeweller, Paolo Picciotti "The pope's decision to renounce precious things and avoid materials such as gold is in keeping with his intention to emphasize the religious symbols themselves and not what they are made of. It's not great news (considering the profit they will loss) for us goldsmiths, but I personally think it is a potent gesture which holds a message of renewal for the church".

Strong Hope for Renewal

With Pope Francis's desire to renew the Catholic church and reignite the faith of the believers, there's a strong hope for a more solid ministry with purpose of transformation. It is high time to address the pressing issue of the Catholic church whose members slowly drifting apart to other evangelical groups.

Visiting his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Last March 23, 2013, another history in the 2,000 years life of the Catholic church unfolded--the meeting of the two Popes, something that had never seen in the last seven centuries. Pope Francis flew to Castel Gandolfo where his predecessor, Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, had lived since he vacated the Vatican.
Meeting of the two popes

The scene saw the weak and frail Benedict who rarely moved his head and who walked with the aid of a cane. Pope Francis brought a gift to his predecessor, which he called a "Madonna of Humility". It was thought possible that the Pope Emeritus expressed his vow of obedience to his successor something he promised in the last days of his resignation.

When the two reached the prayer room Benedict offered Francis the privileged to kneel first as an act of allegiance to the new Pope, but Francis declined saying "we are brothers, we will pray together", so the two prayed side by side.
Praying side by side

Pope Francis thanked the Pope Emeritus for his ministry, "I thought of you. You gave us so many signs of humility and gentleness in your pontificate".

The two will be living together few throw stones away when Benedict will moved to the renovated nunnery within the Vatican walls in the coming weeks. But he reiterated he will spend the rest of life in prayer hidden to the world.

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