The pope himself has said he is no St. Francis. But he admires him for being "a man who wants to do things, wants to build, he founded an order and its rules, he is an itinerant and a missionary, a poet and a prophet, he is mystical," Pope Francis told Italy's La Repubblica newspaper. "He found evil in himself and rooted it out. He loved nature, animals, the blade of grass on the lawn, and the birds flying in the sky. But above all he loved people, children, old people, women."
Many Catholics, however, see St. Francis in the pope. He has condemned the "idol called money." He just expelled a German bishop, dubbed the "Bishop of Bling," for his over-the-top spending on a diocesan residence. He urged high clerics not to drive fancy cars and then accepted a 29-year-old Renault 4 from an older Italian priest; he uses it to putter around Vatican City. His preference for a simple white cassock and skullcap led one fashion writer to wonder if it will inspire more austere looks from Italy's designers. He said he decided to live in a no-frills apartment in the Vatican guesthouse, instead of the Apostolic Palace, partly because he wants to be around a community of people.
"He doesn't want the big car or the gold cross, or to be protected by a lot of policemen. He wants contact with the people," says Andrea Tornielli, an Italian journalist who has met the pope. "He is not saying that all the people around the world have to be the same. But he is setting a big example."
The papal mystery: Is he right or left?