Pope visits namesake’s Assisi tomb

Pope Francis is in the Umbrian hillside town of Assisi to pray at the shrine of the 13th-Century saint whose name he adopted when elected earlier this year.

Francis is accompanied by eight cardinals, with whom he has spent the past three days discussing a radical programme of reform for the Vatican.

He has said he wants today’s Catholic Church to resemble Francis of Assisi’s “Church of the poor”.

He wants to use abandoned monasteries and convents to house refugees.

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“The world does not care about the many people fleeing slavery, hunger, fleeing in search of freedom”

Pope Francis on Lampedusa
And he says he wants to see a less hierarchical Church that is less centred on the Vatican.

‘Pastry-shop Christians’
Speaking in a hall where St Francis was said to have thrown off his robes in a gesture of humility, the Pope called on the Catholic Church and its followers to rid themselves of earthly concerns.

“The Church, all of us should divest ourselves of worldliness. Worldliness is a murderer because it kills souls, kills people, kills the Church.”

“Without divesting ourselves, we would become pastry-shop Christians, like beautiful cakes and sweet things but not real Christians,” he said.

Two days ago Pope Francis told Italian newspaper La Repubblica his namesake had “longed for a poor Church that looked after others, accepted monetary help and used it to help others with no thought of itself”.

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“Eight-hundred years have passed and times have changed, but the ideal of a missionary and poor Church is still more than valid,” he said.

During his day-long “pilgrimage” to Assisi, the Pope has been meeting groups of poor, sick and disabled people who are being looked after by Catholic orders or charities.

Footage shows the pontiff in a crowded church greeting and blessing disabled people, both young and old, and kissing many of them on the top of their heads.

While visiting sites associated with St Francis of Assisi – the patron saint of Italy – he said Friday was a “day of tears” for the victims of the Lampedusa shipwreck that killed scores of African migrants.

The world “does not care about the many people fleeing slavery, hunger, fleeing in search of freedom. And how many of them die as happened yesterday! Today is a day of tears”, he said.

Known in Italian as Il Poverello, or the Poor One, St Francis was the son of a wealthy local cloth merchant who scandalised his family when he reached the age of 25 by dumping his expensive clothing and living in sackcloth, ministering to the poor for the rest of his life.

Pope Francis has become known for his candid views – unlike anything heard coming out of the Vatican during recent papacies, says the BBC’s David Willey in Rome.

He wants to see an overhaul of the Church, bringing it closer to ordinary people.

The Pope and his council of eight cardinals held their first meetings this week to discuss reforming the Church.