Pope meets, blesses press corps

March 16, 2013 at 2:23 PM
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VATICAN CITY, March 16 (UPI) -- Pope Francis Saturday met with, and blessed, the international press corps assembled in Rome since the conclave that elected him was convened.

Francis joked with the press corps about the long hours they've spent covering the process to pick a new pope, ANSA News Agency said.

"You've had a lot of work, eh,?" a grinning Francis told journalists inside the Paul VI Hall. "A special thanks to your valuable service in recent days."

Though reporters were not permitted to ask questions of the new pontiff, plenty of questions remain regarding clergy sex abuse in Europe and the United States, the Vatican's troubled banking system and the uproar when his predecessor Benedict XVI's butler leaked private papers to a reporter.

After the brief chat, Francis personally greeted several veteran members of the Vatican press corps.

He also shed light on his choice of namesake. He chose the name of a medieval friar in honor of the poor.

He said he decided to adopt the name of St. Francis of Assisi after a colleague told him "don't forget the poor" just after the cardinals of the church selected him to succeed the retiring Pope Benedict XVI, the BBC reported Saturday.

The 76-year-old pontiff, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, said he immediately thought of the 13th-century Italian founder of the Franciscan order because he represented "poverty and peace." St. Francis of Assisi took a vow of poverty but never became an ordained priest.

The pope was met with applause from staff and patients at a Rome hospital when he arrived Friday to visit with Argentine Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Mejia was in intensive care at the hospital after suffering a fainting spell.

Pope Francis blessed three other patients in intensive care and then greeted a crowd of people in the lobby.

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