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Casual pope puts Vatican on alert with quips

By Nicole Winfield

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 9 2013 8:00 a.m. MDT

Given the scandals, the arrival of a reform-minded, non-nonsense pope has prompted a flurry of speculation that Francis might shut the bank down. So imagine the headlines that followed his April 24 homily, when he lamented how the church can sometimes become too bureaucratic, too much like an aid group, and that bureaucracies are necessary up to a point.

"The church isn't an NGO, it's a story of love," Francis told the bank's staff in the pews. "But there are the IOR folks here, excuse me, OK? Everything is necessary, offices are necessary, OK, but they're only necessary up to a certain point: as a help to this story of love. But when the organization loses this primary place, when the love is gone, the poor church becomes an NGO. And this isn't the way to go."

Archbishop Angelo Becciu, under secretary of the Vatican secretariat of state, told the Vatican newspaper a few days later that Francis was by no means hinting that he might shut down the Vatican bank.

THE VICAR OF CHRIST SAID WHAT?

Sometimes, Francis' one-liners don't warrant Vatican clarification, but they're worth repeating simply because they came from the lips of the Successor of Peter, Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church:

— Francis urged the church to "strip" itself of its worldy attachment to wealth during his Oct. 4 trip to Assisi and focus instead on the basics of Christ's teachings. "You might say, 'Can't we have a more human Christianity, without the cross, without Jesus, without stripping ourselves?'" he asked rhetorically. "In this way we'd become pastry-shop Christians, like a pretty cake and nice sweet things. Pretty, but not true Christians."

—Francis was asked June 7 why he chose to live in the Vatican hotel rather than the fancier Apostolic Palace where his predecessors lived. "If I was living alone, isolated, it wouldn't be good for me," he told students of Jesuit schools. "A professor asked me the same question, 'Why don't you go and live there (in the papal apartments)'? And I replied: 'Listen to me professor, it is for psychiatric reasons.'"

—The pope has urged nuns and sisters to be like joyful mothers to the church, caring for its flock, and not act like they're "old maids." ''It makes me sad when I find sisters who aren't joyful," he lamented during his Oct. 4 visit to a cloistered convent in Assisi. "They might smile, but with just a smile they could be flight attendants!"

Given Francis' wry sense of humor and willingness to regularly ditch speeches prepared for him, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said he wants the faithful to know the difference between a pontifical joke and an encyclical, a clever quip in a homily and infallible teaching.

"There are different genres of expression, some are magisterial and official, others are more pastoral," Lombardi told The Associated Press. "They have a different doctrinal value."

Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield

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