New style of papacy: Pope Francis pays hotel bill

VATICAN CITY (AP) — On his first day as

shepherd of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Francis picked up

his luggage

at a Vatican hotel, personally thanked each member of the staff

and even paid his own bill. Then, at his first Mass, he delivered

a short, unscripted homily — in Italian, not the Latin of his

predecessor — holding the cardinals who elected him responsible

for keeping the church strong.

Pope for barely 12 hours, Francis brushed off years of tradition and formality Thursday with a remarkable break in style that

sent a clear message that his papacy is poised to reject many of the trappings enjoyed by now-retired Benedict XVI.

That was hardly out of character for

Francis. For years, as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Argentine

pastor took the

bus to work, kissed the feet of AIDS patients and prayed with

former prostitutes, eschewing the luxurious residence that would

have been his due as archbishop of Buenos Aires.

But now he is pope — the first from the New World and the first Jesuit — and his style both personal and liturgical is in

a global spotlight.

On his first day, he couldn't have signaled a greater contrast to Benedict, the German academic who was meek and generous

in person but formal and traditional in public.

The differences played out Thursday in the Sistine Chapel as the 76-year-old Francis celebrated his first public Mass as pope.

Whereas Benedict read a three-page discourse in Latin, Francis had a far simpler message. Speaking off-the-cuff for 10 minutes

in easy Italian, he said all Catholics must "build" the church and "walk" with the faith.

He urged priests to build their churches on solid foundations, warning: "What happens when children build sand castles on

the beach? It all comes down."

"If we don't proclaim Jesus, we become a pitiful NGO, not the bride of the Lord," he said.

"When we walk without the cross, and when we preach about Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are

mundane. We are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but we are not disciples of the Lord."

The new style was evident even in Francis'

wardrobe. Rather than wear the new golden pectoral cross he was offered

after his

election Wednesday, he kept the simple crucifix of his days as

bishop. He also turned down the red velvet cape that Benedict

wore when he was presented to the world for the first time in

2005, choosing the simple white cassock of the papacy instead.

"It seems to me what is certain is it's a great change of style, which for us isn't a small thing," Sergio Rubin, Francis'

authorized biographer, told The Associated Press.

Rubin said the new pope "believes the church has to go into the streets" and be one with the people it serves and not impose

its message on a society that often doesn't want to hear it.

For this reason, as Cardinal Bergoglio, "he

built altars and tents in the squares of Buenos Aires, and held Masses

with former

prostitutes and homeless people in the street," Rubin said. "He

did this to express the closeness of the church to those who

are suffering."

Rubin said he expected to see more changes — even substantive ones — once Francis gets his footing.

"I think the categories of progressive and conservative are insufficient," Rubin said. "Pope Francis is someone with a great

mental openness to enter into dialogue. He is very understanding of different situations. He doesn't like to impose."

Francis began Thursday with an early morning trip in a simple Vatican car — not the papal sedan — to a Roman basilica dedicated

to the Virgin Mary, where he prayed before an icon of the Madonna.

Like many Latin American Catholics, Francis

has a particular devotion to the Virgin Mary, and his visit to the St.

Mary Major

basilica was a reflection of that. Laying flowers on the altar, he

then prayed before a Byzantine icon of Mary and the infant


"He has a great devotion to this icon of Mary, and every time he comes from Argentina he visits this basilica," said the Rev.

Elio Montenero, who was present for the pope's arrival. "We were surprised today because he did not announce his visit."

Francis himself had foreshadowed the visit, telling the 100,000 people packed into rain-soaked St. Peter's Square after his

election that he intended to pray to the Madonna "that she may watch over all of Rome."

The new pope, known for his work with the poor in Buenos Aires' slums, had charmed the crowd when he emerged on the loggia

and greeted them with a simple and familiar: "Brothers and sisters, good evening."

On Thursday, members of his flock were charmed again when Francis stopped by the Vatican-owned residence where he stayed before

the conclave to pick up his luggage. But that wasn't the only reason he made the detour.

"He wanted to thank the personnel, people

who work in this house," said the Rev. Pawel Rytel-Andrianek, a guest at

the residence.

"He greeted them one by one, no rush, the whole staff, one by


Francis then paid his bill "to set a good example," Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.

"People say that he never in these 20 years

asked for a (Vatican) car," Rytel-Andrianek said. "Even when he went to

the conclave

with a priest from his diocese, he just walked out to the main

road, picked up a taxi and went to the conclave. So very simple

for a future pope."

Francis displayed that same sense of humility immediately after his election, spurning the throne on an elevated platform

that was brought out for him to receive the cardinals' pledges of obedience, said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.

"He met with us on our own level," Dolan said.

Later, he traveled by bus back to the hotel along with the other cardinals, refusing the special sedan and security detail

that he was offered.

Francis, said U.S. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, has signaled his adherence to a "Gospel of simplicity."

"He is by all accounts a very gentle but

firm, very loving but fearless, a very pastoral and caring person ideal

for the challenges

today," Wuerl said.

Cardinal Thomas Collins, the archbishop of Toronto, agreed.

"He's just a very loving, wonderful guy. We just came to appreciate the tremendous gifts he has. He's much beloved in his

diocese in Argentina. He has a great pastoral history of serving people," Collins said in a telephone interview.

And he has a sense of humor.

During dinner after his election on Wednesday, the cardinals toasted him, Dolan said. "Then he toasted us and said, 'May God

forgive you for what you've done.''