Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Modest Pope pays his own hotel bill as he moves to new digs at the Vatican

Pope Francis waves from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican (AP)
Pope Francis waves from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican (AP)

Pope Francis showed signs of a different style of papacy than his traditional predecessor with his first day on the job yesterday, which began with him stopping by his hotel to pick up his luggage and pay the bill himself.

The Vatican said Francis, who has a reputation for frugality, insisted on paying the bill. "He was concerned about giving a good example of what priests and bishops should do," a Vatican spokesman said.

In his first morning as Pope he surprised worshippers with a visit to Rome's biggest basilica, the Santa Maria Maggiore, to pray before an icon of the Madonna before he set about his monumental task of reviving the Catholic Church.

In stark difference to Benedict XVI's three-page long pontificate, Francis spent his first Mass giving an off-the-cuff homily about the need to walk with God, build up his Church and confess – at one point referring to children building sandcastles on the beach.

Later in the day he met the 114 cardinals who elected him, plus those aged over-80 who were excluded from the conclave in the Sistine Chapel. Many may be hoping for plum jobs when the new Pope announces his shake-up of the Vatican's governing body, the Roman Curia.

It emerged yesterday that Francis may meet with his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict as soon as this weekend, following a phone conversation last night.

The pontiff will lead his first Angelus as Pope in St Peter's Square on Sunday, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said. His inaugural Mass will take place on Tuesday.

Pope Francis will also encounter the Press tomorrow morning. So far the signs are that most of the media are on his side. Press relations won't have been hurt by news from Father Lombardi that the pontiff insisted on paying his bill at the Vatican's Santa Marta Hotel for his stay during the conclave, and that he asked for a reduced car escort.

This winning modesty was underlined by comments from his elderly cousin Giuseppina Ravedone Martinengo (82), who lives in Turin, northwest Italy. "My cousin will bring a breath of fresh air to the Vatican," she said.

"He is someone who likes to change things. The last time he visited, he arrived with a low-cost flight. He always travels like that. No waste."

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