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VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis called for “a poor Church for the poor” in an address to journalists from around the world yesterday, as part of a charm offensive characterised by an informal style in contrast with the Vatican’s monumental halls of power.
The newly-elected Pope smiled and joked with 3,000 journalists and Vatican communications officials at an audience, as well as imparting a blessing for any atheists present.
The 76-year-old said he picked his papal name at the end of a dramatic conclave on Wednesday because he was inspired by
St Francis of Assisi, who was “a man of poverty and a man of peace”.
“How I would like a poor Church for the poor!” said the Argentinian with the common touch, the first Pope from Latin America and the first non-European pontiff in nearly 1,300 years.
But the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio faced fresh accusations at home that he had failed to speak out about the brutalities committed by Argentina’s military leaders during the “Dirty War”. The special audience with journalists in a Vatican auditorium was billed as another sign of the greater openness in Bergoglio’s first days as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
Francis described the emotional moments of his election in a conclave in the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday, offering a rare insight from a Pope into deliberations shrouded in the strictest secrecy.
He explained that when the cardinals elected him, he had been sitting next to Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, who had comforted him when it became clear he would be the 266th Pope
“He hugged me and kissed me and told me not to forget the poor. And that word went in here,” Francis said, pointing to his head.
“I immediately thought of Francis of Assisi,” he said, adding that the 13th century saint had been “a man of poverty, a man of peace, a man who loved and protected Creation.”
“Right now our relations with Creation are not going very well,” he added. AFP