What would Jesus drive?
That’s the question posed by Pope Francis’s most recent private mass over the weekend.
Speaking to young trainee priests and nuns, the leader of the Catholic Church said it pained him to see priests driving flashy and expensive vehicles. Instead, he urged the church’s future leaders to respect their vows of poverty.
“I feel bad when I see a priest or a nun with the latest car model. This cannot be!” he told the audience of thousands from all over the world at a special mass in the Vatican.
“Maybe you need a car to move around for work but get one that is more humble. If you like the nice one, just think how many children die of hunger,” he argued, adding: “Wealth does a lot of harm. We priests and nuns need to be coherent about our poverty.”
“I would like a more missionary Church, not so tranquil. A beautiful Church that moves forward.”
The speech is one in a series of what has been described as Pope Francis’ drive (excuse the pun) to make the Catholic Church more austere and focused on the poor.
“In Christian life and in Church life too there are old and flimsy structures. We need to renew them,” the Pope said, according to the Vatican’s website.
“We should not be afraid of allowing the flimsy structures that imprison us to fall down,” he said. “The Church has always allowed itself to be renewed… That is how the Church has developed, leaving it to the Holy Spirit to renew these structures. We should not be afraid of this.”
Francis, a moderate conservative who was elected by a conclave of cardinals in March this year, has made it his mission to create a “poor Church for the poor.”
And it seems he believes in living by example.
Since succeeding Pope Benedict in March, the former cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina has disposed with the more ostentatious parts of his job and office. Choosing to live in a Vatican guesthouse rather than the opulent papal apartments and walk to work are just some examples of his frugal lifestyle choices.
He recently launched an investigation into the Vatican bank and its bureaucracy, threatening a major overhaul of administrators later this year.
The Vatican’s bank, the Institute for Works of Religion, is currently at the centre of an Italian money-laundering probe.
So what does Pope Francis choose to get around in? The religious leader’s car of choice for moving in and around the Vatican City’s walls is a modest and compact Ford Focus.