Pope Francis visits hometown of his namesake Saint Assisi to drive home message of reform and humility

Pope Francis, left, holds a Mass at the Sacro Convento and Saint Francis Basilica, with a statue of his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, in the background, Oct. 4, 2013, in Assisi, Italy. Getty

(CBS News) ASSISI, Italy - Pope Francis traveled Friday to the adopted hometown of his namesake Saint Francis of Assisi, and while previous pontiffs have visited Assisi, for the current pope, Friday's trip to the town about 100 miles north of the Vatican was more than just a religious pilgrimage, it was a mission statement.

CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports that an outdoor mass was the centerpiece of his visit, but for Pope Francis, Assisi was a highly symbolic place to stress, once again, how he's trying to remake the Catholic Church in the image of the man who made the Italian hillside town famous.

Saint Francis of Assisi famously rejected wealth to pursue a simple, pious life ministering to the poor. Eight-hundred years later, Pope Francis -- the first pontiff in the history of the church to take the Saint's name -- has made it clear he wants the Church to start following Saint Francis' example.

Already this week Francis has assembled an international panel of Cardinals to begin the process of reforming the bloated and self-serving Vatican bureaucracy. They say it doesn't need fixing; it needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.

Behind the religious pageantry of the, there are other early signs of reform. The Vatican bank -- the epicenter of secrecy, scandal and corruption -- issued its first-ever annual report this week. The bank said it was now committed to transparency, but acknowledged an ongoing investigation by Italian prosecutors into money laundering allegations.

Pope Francis has been in office just six months, but already he has begun to redefine the Papacy, publicly rejecting some of its more ostentatious trappings from day-one.


The Pope called recently for the church to put its focus beyond "small-minded rules."

Francis has frankly discussed topics historically controversial for the Catholic Church, even suggesting homosexuals should not be marginalized by church leaders.

When questioned what his response would be upon learning that a cleric was gay, though not sexually active, the Argentinean-born pontiff said he wouldn't judge them. "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" he said.

He has spoken often without notes, and about real events.

The tragedy of the sinking of a boat carrying hundreds of African refugees off the Italian coast on Thursday was the latest example. The death toll was still rising Friday, and could be more than 300 when all victims are eventually found or the search is called off.

Francis, who has been urging more international action to help the migrants, called the disaster a disgrace. On Friday, he blamed it on an uncaring world.

In just a short time, Pope Francis has changed the style of the Papacy. Now, he's attacking the very structure of the Church. He was elected to be a different kind of pope, but he may be even more different than the Cardinals who selected him initially thought.

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