VATICAN CITY (AP) — An Italian cardinal who served as the Vatican's No. 2 has defended his new, sprawling apartment as "normal," and denied that Pope Francis, who prizes frugality in his papacy, is angry with him.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone was reacting to news reports last week claiming Francis was furious over his plans to move into a "mega-penthouse" in one of the buildings where prelates live on Vatican property. Bertone, a longtime aide to Benedict XVI, served as the now retired pope's secretary of state. Francis replaced Bertone in the powerful post last year.
Francis says he wants a "poor" church. He chose to live in a smallish, three-room suite in a modest hotel on Vatican's grounds instead of in the grand Apostolic Palace where predecessors lived. Francis also gets around in an economy car, on occasion sitting next to the driver instead of in the back seat.
In a post this week on the website of the Genoa archdiocese, where Bertone had been archbishop, he claimed Francis phoned him to "express his solidarity and disappointment over the attacks on me about the apartment, which he was told about from the day it was assigned to me."
"The apartment -- spacious as the residences of the Vatican's ancient palazzo normally are -- has dutifully been renovated (at my expense)," Bertone wrote.
Bertone then invoked the name of one of the church's newest saints. "As St. Pontiff John XXIII used to say, 'I won't stop to pick up the stones that have been hurled at me.'"
Far from the Vatican, other prelates are catching on to Francis' austerity campaign. Recently, the Atlanta archbishop, trying to appease angry faithful, said he will sell a $2.2 million mansion, just three months after he moved in.
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