Pope Francis wants 'poor Church for the poor'


The Pope on why he chose the name Francis, and the kind of Church he wants to see

Pope Francis has said he wants "a poor Church, for the poor" following his election as head of the world's 1.2bn Catholics on Wednesday.

He said he chose the name Francis after 12-13th Century St Francis of Assisi, who represented "poverty and peace".

He urged journalists to get to know the Church with its "virtues and sins" and to share its focus on "truth, goodness and beauty".

Pope Francis takes over from Benedict XVI, who abdicated last month.

The former Argentine cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, was the surprise choice of cardinals meeting in Rome to choose a new head of the Church.


Divulging details of the conclave is punishable by excommunication. Only the Pope can release his electors from the vow of secrecy.

Which is a good thing, because speaking in fluent Italian - and often off the cuff - to journalists in a packed Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis told of the moment he was elected.

When he passed the crucial two-thirds threshold, his close friend, the Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes hugged him, kissed him and entreated: "Don't forget the poor!"

"And that word went in here," said the new Pope, pointing to his head.

It's widely thought that each cardinal has a name up their sleeve before the election, just in case, but the 76-year-old Argentine suggested his choice was spontaneous.

The son of an aristocrat, St Francis of Assisi spurned a life of luxury to live with and for the poor. The new Pope, the son of an Italian railway worker, said how he was inspired by the 13th Century Italian saint who was a man of both poverty and peace.

"How I wish the Church could become poor again," he said.

In his first audience at the Vatican, he said Jesus Christ and not the Pope was the centre of the Church, which he stressed was "spiritual not political" in nature.

He said the Holy Spirit had inspired the resignation of Benedict XVI and guided the cardinals choosing him as the next pontiff.

The Pope said he had been inspired to take the name Francis by a Brazilian colleague who embraced him and whispered "don't forget the poor" when it was announced that he had been elected Pope.

He said he immediately thought of St Francis of Assisi, the Italian founder of the Franciscan Order who was devoted to the poor.

As well as representing poverty and peace, he said St Francis "loved and looked after" creation - and he noted that humanity was "not having a good relationship with nature at the moment".

St Francis of Assisi is said to have loved animals as his "brothers and sisters" and even to have preached to birds.


There had been speculation that Pope Francis - who was a member of the Jesuit order - had chosen his name in honour of St Francis Xavier, a 16th Century Jesuit missionary in Asia. But he said this was not the case.

The new Pope's style is very different to that of his predecessor, BBC Vatican correspondent David Willey says.

He talks in simple, easy to understand terms about ethical values and shows a remarkable sense of humour, our correspondent says.

Earlier, the Vatican said Pope Francis would visit his predecessor Pope emeritus Benedict next week.

Pope Benedict, 85, became the first Pope in 600 years to abdicate last month when he said old age and health meant he could no longer continue in the job.


More on This Story

Pope Francis


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 567.

    My views of Pope Francis are also positive. I am often skeptical of what newspapers report, but if he really said, "You wear it' The carnival is over", when offered the red velvet cape, his declining of the red shoes and remaining in his plain black ones, and, when shown the papal apartments, "I don't need all this space. You could house 300 people here", I wish him every success and God Speed!

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    Pope Francis could take the Catholic Church on a journey that would rebuild and renew the Church. I think he may say things about how Catholics should live that will make many uncomfortable. We must not live in comfort and plenty while others starve and suffer.

    As a Catholic, I have hope that Pope Francis will lead the Church back to Christ and make it attractive to new members again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 550.

    As an Anglican, I must admit that the Pope's first statement putting Jesus Christ at the centre of the Church is a breath of fresh air. If they truly do that then we will see a back-to-basics spreading of the Gospel and a revolution in actions that will follow from that decision. We will be praying for them. If only the Church of England could follow suit. Perhaps the Catholics could pray for us?

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    I'm an ex-catholic, now atheist, but one bible story that sticks in my head is Jesus kicking the traders etc. out of the house of his father (one of the few instances Jesus got truly peeved, which says something). It's nice the new pope is identifying with this side of the church more strongly, but I can't help but notice how far the church leadership is removed from the lay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    First impressions of Pope Francis, as an athiest who understands the influence of religious institutions, is positive. He looked nervous when first appearing in front of the public, maybe he had just realised the size of the task ahead of him. He comes across as a humble and approachable man, if he can sort out the problems that his predecessor failed to deal with then he could be a great pope.


Comments 5 of 12


More Europe stories


Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Audi R8Need for speed

    Audi unveils its fastest production car ever - ahead of its Geneva debut


  • A bicycle with a Copenhagen WheelClick Watch

    The wheel giving push bikes an extra boost by turning them into smart electric hybrids

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.