(AP) He still goes by “Bergoglio” when speaking to friends, seems reluctant to call himself pope, and has decided to live in the Vatican hotel rather than the grand papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace.
It might seem as if Pope Francis is in a bit of denial over his new job as leader
of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. Or perhaps he’s simply changing the popular idea of what it means to be pope, keeping the no-frills style he cultivated as archbishop of Buenos Aires in ways that may have broad implications for the church.
The world has already seen how Francis has cast aside many trappings of the papacy, refusing to don the red velvet cape Benedict XVI wore for official occasions and keeping the simple, iron-plated pectoral cross he used as bishop and archbishop.
On Thursday, his belief that a pope’s job is to serve the world’s lowliest will be on display when he washes the feet of a dozen young inmates at a juvenile detention center in Rome. Previous popes have celebrated the Holy Thursday ritual, which re-enacts Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet before his crucifixion, by washing the feet of priests in one of Rome’s most ornate basilicas.
Such moves hint, even at this early stage, only two weeks into his papacy, at an apparent effort by Francis to demystify the office of pope.
Unlike his predecessors, he doesn’t sign his name “Pope Francis,” ending his official correspondence simply “Francis.”
To those closest he is still Bergoglio, and this week, Italian state radio broadcast a voice mail he left wishing a friend Happy Birthday. “It’s Bergoglio,” the pope said, using the surname he was born with.
Even on Day One, Francis didn’t acknowledge he was pope.
Speaking on the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica after his election the night of March 13, Francis told the tens of thousands gathered there that the cardinals’ task during the conclave had been to “give Rome a bishop.”
And bishop of Rome is the title he has emphasized repeatedly ever since â€” not vicar of Christ, or any of his other official titles.
“I do think there is something about trying to reduce the awesomeness, the grandeur and majesty of the papacy,” said John Allen Jr., Vatican columnist for the National Catholic Reporter. “Part of this is just his personality. He’s never liked pomp and circumstance.” [More]