(Photo: Reuters/Osservatore Romano)
The newly elected pope addressed the media for the first time on Saturday, reminding Catholics that Jesus, not the pope, is at the center of the Church, which he said should be "poor, and for the poor." The pontiff also explained his choice of the name Francis.
There were about 5,000 reporters from more than 80 countries at the Paul VI hall at the Vatican when Pope Francis said Catholics should remember that Jesus, not the pope, is the center of the Church.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina chose Francis to be his papal name because St. Francis of Assisi is "the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man," explained the only Jesuit and first Latin American to be chosen as leader of the Roman Catholic Church. "Oh, how I would like a poor Church, and for the poor," he added.
St. Francis, who died in 1226, renounced his family's fortune for a life of charity and poverty.
Pope Francis is also known for his simplicity. In Argentina, where he was archbishop, he lived in a simple apartment, cooked his own meals and used public transport to go to work.
When the election results became clear on Wednesday, Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil, who was sitting next to Bergoglio, hugged and kissed him and told him, "Don't forget the poor," Reuters quoted the pope as recalling. "And that's how in my heart came the name Francis of Assisi," he said. "I thought of wars .... and Francis (of Assisi) is the man of peace, and that is how the name entered my heart, Francis of Assisi, for me he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects others."
St. Francis is also revered by environmentalists because he loved nature and preached to animals. "Right now, we don't have a very good relation with creation," the pope said.
Pope Francis also thanked the journalists for covering his election, and said they should "always try to better understand the true nature of the Church, and even its journey in the world, with its virtues and with its sins." He urged them to seek "truth, goodness and beauty" in the world and in the Church.
The pope, who demonstrates people's skills and pastoral care for the people, smiled often while speaking. He joked as well. "You have been working hard, eh?" he told the journalists. The delighted reaction was immediate.
Pope Francis also connected with non-believers and people of other faiths in his address. "I told you I would willingly give you a blessing," he said. "Since many of you do not belong to the Catholic Church and others are non-believers, from the bottom of my heart I give this silent blessing to each and every one of you, respecting the conscience of each one of you but knowing that each one of you is a child of God. May God bless all of you."
"(Pope Francis) has a genuine warmth to him that is very compelling, very attractive," USA Today quoted Eric Reguly, Rome correspondent for the Toronto Globe & Mail, as saying. "Pope Benedict was very straight forward, even cold or academic. It's a huge contrast. It's the first time I ever heard a pope cracking jokes. Even John Paul, who had a connection with people, didn't show a sense of humor like this. I think this is something the Vatican needs right now."
On Friday, the pope urged leaders of the Roman Catholic Church never to give in to discouragement, bitterness or pessimism but to keep focused on their mission. "Let us never give in to the pessimism, to that bitterness, that the devil places before us every day. Let us not give into pessimism and discouragement," he told the cardinals who chose him.
Francis has also called for the Church to stick to the faith's Gospel roots and shun modern temptations. The Church must not become just another charitable group without its divine mission, he said.
On Sunday, Francis will conduct his first public prayer from his apartment adjacent to St. Peter's Basilica. On Tuesday, his formal installation ceremony will be held, which will be attended by many world dignitaries, including U.S. Vice President Biden, who is Catholic.