Pope Francis explains why he chose name after St. Francis of Assisi

(Photo: Reuters / Paul Hanna)Pope Francis I reacts during an audience for members of the media in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican March 16, 2013.

Pope Francis told the story of how he chose the papal name honoring St. Francis of Assisi and cracked a joke before some 5,000 reporters at a media conference Saturday.

Among other firsts, the newly elected pontiff is the first pope in history to select a papal name after St. Francis, a rich man who renounced his wealth to work with the poor and animals.

"I'd like a poor church, for the poor," said Francis, seated at Paul VI hall at the Vatican.

Before his election as pope on March 13, Jorge Mario Bergoglio also lived humbly, known to ride the bus and cook his own meals.

"Let me tell you a story," the 76-year-old pontiff began. "During the election, when things became dangerously close, a few archbishops who sat next to me comforted me.

"Then, when the (conclave) vote reached two-thirds, they hugged me and one said, 'Don't forget the poor.' That entered my head. The poor. I thought of Saint Francis of Assisi. That's when it entered my heart."

A few of the cardinal-electors also suggested other names to him, including Pope Adriano and Pope Clement, he divulged to reporters. However, by that time, he had already decided on Pope Francis.

Pope Francis is the first pope born outside Europe since St. Gregory II, the first Latin American pope, the first from the Americas, and the first from the Southern Hemisphere. Add to the list, he is also the first Jesuit pope.

He was the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina and served as Archbishop of Buenos Aires before becoming the pope.

The new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics has also been quick to distinguish himself from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned Feb. 28 due to poor health.

Take one example: he cracks jokes.

During the press conference Saturday, Pope Francis stopped speaking from his script and smiled at the dense audience.

"You have been working hard, eh?" he said.

Pope Francis will be officially inaugurated as the 266th pontiff on March 19 in a special Mass in Rome.

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