Pope Francis, already renowned for his modest tastes, has shunned the official papal apartment in favour of a room in a Vatican guesthouse.
By Nick Squires, Rome correspondent
3:39PM GMT 27 Mar 2013
Instead of moving into the lavish apartment in the Apostolic Palace that his predecessor called home, the Argentine Pontiff will remain in the Vatican residence in which he has been staying since being elected.
In doing so, he has broken with more than a century of Vatican tradition. The apartment, which looks out on to St Peter’s Square and consists of a dozen rooms and living quarters for staff, was first used by Pius X in 1903.
It is the latest example of the Roman Catholic Church’s first Jesuit Pope tearing up the rule book and rejecting the pomp and ceremony associated with the Seat of St Peter.
On first seeing the Apostolic Palace apartments, shortly after being elected, the Pope is said to have remarked to Vatican aides: “You could fit 300 people in here!”
When he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires, he rejected the option of living in a sumptuous official residence, instead opting for a modest flat and travelling to work by bus. It is not known how long he will remain in the Casa Santa Marta, a Vatican “hotel” in the shadow of St Peter’s Basilica, or when he might move into the papal apartments, if at all.
The Pope is said to enjoy the company he finds in the 120-room residence, which has a small chapel where he celebrates Mass at 7am each day.
It provided accommodation for him and the 114 fellow cardinals who elected him in a secret conclave in the Sistine Chapel. Most have now left, to be replaced by about 40 priests, bishops and other Vatican guests.
Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said the Pope would live in the residence “until further notice”, adding: “I can’t make long-term predictions, but for now it seems he is experimenting with this type of simple living. It is still a period of getting used to things. Certainly in this phase he has expressed the desire to stay where he is.”
Underlining his new, informal style, the Pope is said to sit down to meals wherever he can find a space in the residence’s dining room, rather than insisting on a reserved spot or preferential treatment.
During the conclave the then Jorge Bergoglio stayed in a simple room in Casa Santa Marta. After his election he moved into the largest suite, room 201, which has a study and salon in which he can receive guests and Vatican officials.
During his weekly Wednesday address, the Pope called for an end to bloodshed in the Central African Republic, three days after its president was forced to flee into exile by a coup.
“I am following the situation in the Central African Republic with great attention,” the Pope said in his first reference to a specific conflict since his inauguration last week. “I appeal for an immediate stop to violence and pillaging, and for a political solution to the crisis to be found as soon as possible to bring peace.”
The Pope is set to conduct a Maundy Thursday service on Thursday. The service is usually held at St Peter’s Basilica or in the Church of St John in Lateran – but last week the Pontiff announced that he would hold it at a prison for young offenders on the outskirts of Rome, where he is expected to wash and kiss the feet of 12 inmates. [including a young Italian female and a young Muslim female prisoner]