Pope Francis meets with world's media

Pope Francis, center, Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio, leads

Pope Francis, center, Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio, leads a Mass at the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican a day after his election. (March 14, 2013) (Credit: Getty Images)

VATICAN CITY -- The new pope addressed 6,000 journalists in Vatican City Saturday, speaking of his desire for a church identified with the poor and revealing how he came to choose the name Francis.

In an ecumenical gesture, Pope Francis refrained from imposing the sign of the cross on his audience during a final blessing.

"Since many of you don't belong to the Catholic Church, others are not believers, from my heart I give you my blessing in silence, respecting everyone's conscience, but knowing that each and every one of you is a child of God," said Francis, who will be formally installed on Tuesday.


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Members of the media were allowed to bring friends and family. They snapped pictures and broke into applause as the white-vested pope walked on stage. Sitting in a golden velvet chair, he read his message aloud in Italian.

"St. Francis is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, a poor man. Oh, how I would like a church that is poor and for the poor," he said.

The former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio from Argentina was elected on Wednesday night to lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. He is the first Jesuit pope and the first from Latin America. He picked the name of Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi, the 13-century mystic who served the poor.

Why Francis? He gave the backstory Saturday.

The pope said that during the conclave he had sat near a great friend, Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil. When Cardinal Bergoglio had received two-thirds of the votes, all the cardinal electors broke out in applause. Hummes hugged him, kissed him and told him, "Don't forget the poor."

"So, I immediately thought of St. Francis of Assisi," the pope said.

Francis then put his typed notes aside and shared more details. For weeks, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that the pope alone chooses his name. But the new pope painted a different picture.

The pope said one cardinal told him, "You should be called Adrian because Adrian VI was a reformer and we need reforms." Another cardinal said, "No, no, you should be called Clement XV, that way you can take revenge on Pope Clement XIV, who suppressed the Jesuit order," Francis said, giggling.

After his speech, Francis personally greeted selected members of the media from all over the world. Associated Press photographer Domenico Stinellis gave the pope a framed picture that captures Francis bowing in front of thousands of faithful, asking them to pray for him on the night of his election.

Argentine journalist Virginia Bonard presented the pope with a mate gourd and bombilla, the popular cup and straw used to drink a bitter herbal tea native to Argentina. As cardinal, Francis was famous for hanging out with the poor, drinking mate.

Bonard kissed, hugged and knelt in front of the pope, crying loudly.

She said, "I told him not to forget the families of Cromañón," a disco in Buenos Aires that went up in flames and killed nearly 200 teenagers in 2004.

Italian public radio host Alessandro Forlani was the last journalist on stage. Visually impaired, he came with his guide dog. Francis greeted him, then petted and blessed the dog.

Also Saturday, the pope confirmed all the current Vatican officials in their jobs "for the time being," the Vatican said, noting that he will take time before deciding to make changes in the church administration, beset by scandals in recent years.

World leaders and senior international envoys, including Vice President Joe Biden, are expected on Tuesday for the formal installation ceremony.

Monday, Francis will meet with President Cristina Elisabet Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina, whom he has criticized for supporting liberal measures such as gay marriage and free contraceptives.

His most watched appointment comes Saturday. A meeting at the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo will bring together Francis and his predecessor, Benedict XVI, the first pope to resign in six centuries. With AP

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