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The people’s Pope

By all accounts,Pope Francis is an unusual pope,distancing himself from ceremonial splendour and seeking to open the Church’s doors to groups who have long been estranged:

September 24, 2013 5:33:49 am

Frugality on wheels

He has chosen to live in a guesthouse on the Vatican grounds,becoming the first pope in 110 years not to live in the Apostolic Palace. His Renault 4 Popemobile runs on biofuel. Donated by an Italian priest who used it to visit poor parishioners,it has clocked 300,000 km. Right after his selection,on his way to his installation Mass,Pope Francis chose to ride in an open-backed Mercedes G-Class jeep rather than the armour-plated bulletproof Popemobile.

On call,on camera

By picking up the telephone and spontaneously calling people,Francis has earned the nickname ‘the Cold Call Pope’. This month,he called to comfort a pregnant woman whose married boyfriend had pressured her to have an abortion. He also offered to personally baptise the baby after the woman,who will be a single mother,said she feared she had fallen afoul of the Church. In a break from protocol,he appeared in a “selfie” taken with a group of teenagers visiting the Vatican. The picture appeared on the Facebook page of one of the youngsters,and went viral on social media.

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Washing feet for service

In his most significant break with tradition yet,Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of two young women at a juvenile detention centre—Church rules restrict the Holy Thursday ritual to men. No Pope had ever washed the feet of a woman before. While conservatives lamented that he had had set a “questionable example”,Liberals welcomed the move as a sign of greater inclusiveness. Speaking to the young offenders,including Muslims and Orthodox Christians,Francis said Jesus washed the feet of his disciples on the eve of his crucification in a gesture of love and service.

Free your minds,he says

Signalling a dramatic shift,Pope Francis this month said the Church had become obsessed by “small-minded rules” about how to be faithful and that pastors should emphasise compassion when discussing divisive issues like abortion,gays and contraception. In interviews published in Jesuit journals in 16 countries,Francis said he had been reprimanded for not pressing Church opposition to abortion. But he said “it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall.”

Atheists get a Vatican vote

In an unprecedented letter to a left-wing Italian daily,La Repubblica,the Pope said atheists could take moral decisions just like religious people. “God’s mercy has no limits if we turn to him with a sincere and contrite heart.” he said. “The question for people who do not believe in God is to listen to their consciences. Also for those without faith,sin is going against your conscience…Listening to it means making up one’s mind about what is good and evil.” He has repeatedly said he wants his words to be heard by those from other religions and non-believers.

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