Pope Francis paid his hotel bill and thanked the staff this morning, just one of many signs that he wants a simpler lifestyle than his predecessor, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI.
L'Osservatore Romano / AP
On his first day as shepherd of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Francis picked up his luggage at a Vatican hotel, personally thanked each member of the staff, and even paid his own bill. Then, at his first Mass, he delivered a short, unscripted homily — in Italian, not the Latin of his predecessor — holding the cardinals who elected him responsible for keeping the church strong.
Pope for barely 12 hours, Francis brushed off years of tradition and formality Thursday with a remarkable break in style that sent a clear message that his papacy is poised to reject many of the trappings enjoyed by now-retired Benedict XVI.
That was hardly out of character for Francis. For years, as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Argentine pastor took the bus to work, kissed the feet of AIDS patients, and prayed with former prostitutes, eschewing the luxurious residence that would have been his due as archbishop of Buenos Aires.
But now he is pope — the first from the New World and the first Jesuit — and his style both personal and liturgical is in a global spotlight.
On his first day, he couldn't have signaled a greater contrast to Benedict, the German academic who was meek and generous in person but formal and traditional in public.
The differences played out Thursday in the Sistine Chapel as the 76-year-old Francis celebrated his first public Mass as pope.
Whereas Benedict read a three-page discourse in Latin, Francis had a far simpler message. Speaking off-the-cuff for 10 minutes in easy Italian, he said all Catholics must "build" the church and "walk" with the faith.
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