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Pope Calls for 'Poor Church' in Press Event

  • Al Pessin

Pope Francis speaks during a meeting with the media at the Pope VI hall, at the Vatican, March 16, 2013.

Pope Francis speaks during a meeting with the media at the Pope VI hall, at the Vatican, March 16, 2013.

On his third full day as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, newly elected Pope Francis held an audience for hundreds of journalists who have been covering the past few eventful weeks at the Vatican. The pope went off of his prepared remarks and spoke about the kind of church he wants to lead.

The pope entered the huge auditorium to a fanfare and warm applause from the normally skeptical press corps. Sitting on the stage in a large white chair, he gave formal remarks about the importance of the media and urged the reporters to get to know the church better, both "its virtues and its sins." But then he went off script.

"Let me tell you a story," he said, and then pulled back some of the veil of secrecy that surrounds the conclave that elected him on Wednesday.

The pope wanted to clarify why he chose the name Francis. He said as the vote counting indicated he was close to being elected pope, his friend and fellow-Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil embraced him and told him not to forget the poor. That made him think of St. Francis of Assisi, the legendary champion of the poor, and that is why he chose the name.

He went on to make the most quoted comment of the day.

Pope Francis said St. Francis “wanted a poor church,” and that is what he wants, too.

One of the people in the audience was Dutch priest Father Roderick Vonhogen, a blogger for the Church's Star Quest Production Network.

"I think he didn't only mean poor financially but poor in attitude, like humble, like with the poor," he said.

But Father Vonhogen, who has been a priest for 17 years, says the Catholic Church needs more than humility. He says it needs a new relationship with the faithful and a new assertiveness in dealing with its organizational problems and especially with the sexual abuse scandal.

"The scandal is not just the abuse of people. But the biggest scandal is trying to keep up the appearance of being this holy church whereas in the meantime you know very well that it's a mess. If there is any danger that someone could commit further crimes, that person has no place in the church, cannot be in the church. We have to make sure that everyone in the church is safe," said Father Vonhogen.

Pope Francis has not made any direct comments on the Church's scandals, but many of the faithful hope he will tackle them head-on, and soon.

Pope Francis's First Days as the Pope

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