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What Does This Stunning Decision Tell Us About Pope Francis' Character?

Pope Francis looks on during an audience with the diplomatic corps at the Vatican on March 22, 2013. Pope Francis called for the Roman Catholic Church to 'intensify' its dialogue with Islam, echoing hopes in the Muslim world for better ties with the Vatican during his reign. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis' frugality has captivated headlines, as this pontiff has very openly shunned unneeded amenities both during his time as a cardinal and in his short tenure as head of the Catholic Church. His most recent decision -- to decline the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace -- is, once again, capturing headlines.

As the National Catholic Reporter notes, Francis is, instead, planning to live in a suite inside the Vatican guesthouse (also known as the Casa Santa Marta). This is the same location where he has been residing since the conclave.

The stunning announcement was made by Fr. Federico Lombardi, a spokesperson for the Vatican. It marks the first time in 110 years that a pontiff has decided not to live in the traditional residence.

In this photo released by Brazil's Presidency, Pope Francis, right, talks with Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 20, 2013 Credit: AP

Once again, Francis shows himself to be one who shuns or, at the least, avoids luxury accommodations. For the time being, he plans to steer clear of the Apostolic Palace for living purposes, but he is using the space to hold meetings and audiences, CNN reports.

"He is experimenting with this type of living arrangement, which is simple [and allows him] to live in community with others," Lombardi said of the arrangement.

While it's possible he may choose to live in the traditional setting at a later date, for now, Francis is living in communion with priests, bishops and other residents whom he will be able to have regular worship with at Casa Santa Marta. This decision coincides with past statements Francis has made about simplicity and poverty.

Also, Francis has been having meals in the common dining room with other residents and celebrating mass at 7 a.m. with Vatican employees, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

Pope Francis blesses the faithful in St. Peter's Square during his inauguration Mass at the Vatican, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Credit: AP

This tone, while surprising when comparing the pope to past leaders of the church, seems to be within the bounds of his past statements and actions. In fact, the announcement comes at the same time that an insider account of Francis' criticisms of the Catholic Church during the conclave has gone public.

As TheBlaze reported on Tuesday, Francis was vocally critical of the church just hours before he became pontiff. In addition to decrying “theological narcissism,” the then-cardinal said that the Vatican needs to escape from self-absorption. Francis encouraged a focus on injustice, sin, suffering and ignorance (areas that he apparently called “peripheries”).

Details of the internal comments made by Francis were released this week by Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana.

And, as we've extensively documented, Francis has shown a particular love for and devotion to helping the poor. While in Argentina, he lived in a simple apartment and took public transportation (hence the earlier reference to frugality).

His penchant for helping "the least of these" and his past personal decisions to conserve and to avoid unneeded elegance, especially in light of his current choice of residence, show consistency and character (read more about these issues here).

At the least, critics must admit that Francis does what he says and says exactly what he does.


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