Pope focuses on poor as more allegations emerge

Cardinal Keith O'Brien. Picture: Getty
Cardinal Keith O'Brien. Picture: Getty
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POPE Francis said yesterday that he wants to see “a poor church and a church for the poor”.

As the Catholic Church in Scotland faced further controversy over alleged sexual misconduct by Cardinal Keith O’Brien, with reports he assaulted a priest in the Vatican on the day he was made cardinal, the new Pope sought to set a positive tone for the church’s ­future, with a focus on peace and poverty.

In a speech peppered with jokes and anecdotes, the Pontiff revealed he chose to name himself after St Francis of Assisi in recognition of the saint’s devotion to the poor.

“I will tell you a story,” the 76-year-old said, departing from his prepared speech to recall how, during the papal enclave on Wednesday, he was sitting next to “a good friend”, ­Brazilian cardinal, Claudio Hummes, when he was elected. “He embraced me, kissed me and said, ‘Don’t forget the poor’. And that word entered here,” he said, pointing to his head. As the final votes were counted, Bergoglio said he thought of St Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan order, and decided to take his name.

“For me he is the man of poverty, the man of peace,” he said. “Ah, how I would like a Church that is poor, for the poor.”

As a cardinal in Buenos Aries, Jorge Bergoglio was known for his simple lifestyle and his work in the slum neighbourhoods of the city.

His speech came on the third day of a papacy already marked by surprises and overturned traditions, from Pope Francis’ decision to ride in a minibus back from the conclave with fellow cardinals to his insistence on paying the bill at a clerical residence he stayed in before his election.

As he stepped out onto the balcony of St Peter’s on Wednesday evening to greet crowds he declined to wear a traditional, sumptuous red papal cloak, allegedly telling an official: “The carnival is over.”

But while Pope Francis’ speech was warmly received, there were further allegations involving the former leader of Scotland’s Catholics.

It was alleged that Cardinal O’Brien attempted to grope a Scottish priest at the Scots College in Rome on October 2003, at a celebratory event just hours after Pope John Paul II had made him a cardinal.

It is understood the priest, who lives in London, made a formal complaint to the Vatican’s Congregation of Bishops last September, which led to the Cardinal receiving an immediate summons to Rome.

The matter is believed to have been dealt with by Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec. Within weeks of his visit to Rome, Cardinal O’Brien cancelled all public engagements and stood down as president of the Bishops’ Conference.

The alleged incident is reported to be separate from the four official allegations against Cardinal O’Brien which were made public last month.

Cardinal Ouellet declined to comment on the reports yesterday and the rector of the Scots College in Rome was not available for comment.

Pope Francis, who is the first Jesuit pope, recalled in his speech yesterday how cardinals joked with him about papal names he could take, with one suggesting Hadrian after Pope Hadrian VI, who introduced reforms at the Vatican. “Another told me, ‘No, no, your name must be Clement.’” When the Pope asked why, he was told, “Clement XV, that way you would get revenge on Clement XIV who suppressed the Jesuits.”

In his speech, Pope Francis suggested he would not play politics, saying that the Church “does not have a political ­nature, but is essentially ­spiritual”.

Thousands are expected to cram into St Peter’s Square today for Francis’s first Angelus of his papacy. But before he addresses the crowd the Pope will hold a mass in a small church, St Anne in the Vatican, which is open to the public. “It is totally new for a pope to hold a mass there so soon after he is elected,” said Vatican spokesman Father Ciro Benedettini.