vatican notebook

Pope Francis thanks hotel staff

Pope Francis put his humility on display during his first day as pontiff Thursday, stopping by his hotel to pick up his luggage and thank the staff. It was a decidedly different style of papacy than that of his tradition-minded predecessor, Benedict XVI, who tended to stay ensconced in the frescoed halls of the Vatican.

A crowd was on hand to greet him Thursday morning when Francis showed up at the Vatican-owned residence where he routinely stays during visits to Rome and where he stayed before the start of the conclave

‘‘He wanted to come here because he wanted to thank the personnel, people who work in this house,’’ said the Rev. Pawel Rytel-Andrianek, who is staying at the residence. ‘‘He greeted them one by one, no rush, the whole staff, one by one.’’


He then paid the bill.

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The break from Benedict XVI’s pontificate was evident even in Francis’ wardrobe choices: He kept the simple iron pectoral cross of his days as bishop and eschewed the red cape that Benedict wore when he was presented to the world for the first time in 2005 — choosing instead the simple white cassock of the papacy.

Associated Press

Associated Press

In Argentina, an early riser who shunned luxuries

The son of middle-class Italian immigrants to Argentina, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio generally denied himself the luxuries that previous cardinals in Buenos Aires enjoyed.

He lived in a simple apartment, often rode the bus to work, and cooked his own meals. He likes to drink mate, a traditional South American tea. He rises at 5:30 a.m. and starts work at 7.


‘‘If he brings that same desire for a simple lifestyle to the papal court, I think they are all going to be in shock,’’ said the Rev. Thomas Reese, author of ‘‘Inside the Vatican,’’ an authoritative book on the Vatican bureaucracy. ‘‘This may not be a man who wants to wear silk and furs.’’

The first Jesuit pope and first non-European since the Middle Ages, Bergoglio decided to call himself Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, the humble friar who dedicated his life to helping the poor.

As a cardinal, Bergoglio would regularly visit the slums in Buenos Aires and meet with the poor, AIDS patients, and former prostitutes.

‘‘He believes the church has to go to the streets, to express this closeness of the church and this accompaniment with the people who suffer,’’ said Sergio Rubin, who wrote an authorized biography of Francis.

Associated Press

Section of lung was removed when he was young


The new pope has daunting challenges ahead ranging from the church sex abuse scandal to reinvigorating the flock. And the 76-year-old Francis will have to do it all with just one whole lung.

The Argentine pontiff underwent surgery as a young man to remove ‘‘a good part’’ of an infected lung, according to Rubin, his biographer. “He feels it today. He’s a little bit slowed by it, but he’s OK.’’

Doctors said that losing part of a lung doesn’t necessarily compromise the pope’s health or reduce his life span, though it means no strenuous exercise since he no longer has as much air capacity as those with both lungs.

Dr. Peter Openshaw, director of the Centre for Respiratory Infection at Imperial College London, said that ‘‘having one lung should be enough as long as there is no other disease in that lung.’’

Associated Press

Buenos Aires soccer team proud of its biggest fan

Pope Francis could have chosen the Devils. Instead he turned to the Saints.

In Argentina, where a thin line separates religion from soccer, it’s appropriate that the first Latin American pope is a fan of a team partly founded by and named for a priest: the Saints of San Lorenzo. One of its rivals bears the name Red Devils.

The new pope grew up in Buenos Aires’ Flores neighborhood, not far from the San Lorenzo stadium.

Like his father, he formed a bond with the team that continued as he rose up the Roman Catholic hierarchy to become archbishop of Argentina’s capital.

He’s even a member of the association that owns the club.

In a news release, the team expressed pride in the papal tie.

Associated Press