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A pope for austerity

Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 01:40

March 14 - He's been hailed a humble champion of the poor, but the pressure is on for Pope Francis to lead the Catholic church out of crisis. Ciara Sutton reports.

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He may be the new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. But Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis, is not being seduced by the trappings of his new office. A humble man with a concern for the poor, he's a fan of public transport. And back home in Argentina he lived in a simple apartment. His new name honours St Francis of Assisi, who famously shunned wealth for a life of poverty and simplicity. Michael Severance from Action Institute met Pope Francis before he became a Cardinal. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MICHAEL SEVERANCE, SPOKESMAN FOR ACTION INSTITUTE, SAYING: "He refused to take a taxi service or a driver service. He insisted on taking the metro. And I warned him of pickpockets and other complications, apart from the distance and he said 'No, I'll take the commuter train, you can pick me up, I don't want to spend money.' And I thought this is a thrifty person." He's the first non European pontiff in almost 1,300 years, despite the fact that Latin America is home to nearly half the world's Catholics. But the role has huge international challenges. High on his agenda will be the child abuse scandals that have thrown the church into turmoil, and infighting in the Vatican bureaucracy. Father Robert Sirico says the responsibilities are great. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FATHER ROBERT SIRICO, PRESIDENT OF FAITH-BASED THINK TANK ACTON INSTITUTE, SAYING: "On a practical level he needs to build a good, strong team around him so that he can effectively get across his programmes and and his priorities so that's going to mean the much talked about reform of the Roman Curia among other things." Local businesses in Rome and the Vatican haven't been slow to cash in - tea towels and other souvenirs have already gone on sale. But Pope Francis' cautious spending seems fitting for these austere times in Europe.

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A pope for austerity

Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 01:40