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Column: Acts of humility from the new pope

Pope Francis washes the foot of an inmate at a juvenile detention center in Rome in March as part of a Holy Thursday ritual. The rite re-enacts Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples.

Associated Press

Pope Francis washes the foot of an inmate at a juvenile detention center in Rome in March as part of a Holy Thursday ritual. The rite re-enacts Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples.

Pope Francis is rewriting the rules in his first year at the Vatican. Here are a few of Francis' symbolic changes and statements:

• "Who am I to judge?"

Pope Francis's July 29 comments on homosexuality contrasted with his predecessors'. In a wide-ranging talk, he reached out to gay people and said he wouldn't judge priests for their sexual orientation. "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"

I will wash the feet of others.

On Holy Thursday, reflecting a ritual that Jesus washed the apostles' feet before his death, Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 criminal offenders. That included two women, one a Serbian Muslim. Previous popes had washed the feet of 12 priests.

I don't need a palace.

Instead of living in the opulent papal apartments, Francis opted to live in a Vatican residence alongside visiting clergy and lay people. "I'm visible to people and I lead a normal life — a public Mass in the morning, I eat in the refectory with everyone else, et cetera," he wrote to Father Enrique Martinez. "All this is good for me and prevents me from being isolated." A day after being chosen pope, he returned to his guest house, thanked the staff — and personally paid the bill.

I'll carry my own bag.

Francis caused a stir by carrying his own black hand luggage to his flight to Brazil on July 22. He even kept holding it while shaking hands with VIP well-wishers and while climbing the stairs to the jet's entrance.

Call me Francis.

The desire for humility extends to his name. Born Jorge Bergolgio, he took the papal name of Francis, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, who, after being raised in a wealthy family, gave up worldly goods and lived a life of poverty.

With the poor, I walk the walk.

Pope Francis made sure to visit slums such as Varginha during his trip to Rio de Janeiro; the shantytown is so violent that locals call it Brazil's Gaza Strip. Weeks earlier, the pope invited 200 homeless people to dinner at the Vatican; afterward, he gave each a gift pack with pastries, fresh fruit and a rosary.

Why a balcony? I can speak from my doorstep.

Unlike his predecessor, Pope Francis said he would spend most of his summer at work in steamy Rome rather than at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. While at the mountainside retreat on July 14, however, he met crowds for prayer — right at the front door.

I don't need a fancy popemobile.

Whenever possible, Pope Francis has avoided the fortified Mercedes of his predecessor and opted for less expensive vehicles.

Really, I can take the subway.

As a cardinal and archbishop of Buenos Aires, he lived in a small apartment rather than the archbishop's palace, cooked his own meals and used public transportation.

© 2013 Washington Post

Column: Acts of humility from the new pope 07/30/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 6:12pm]

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