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'I'm no Superman,'says pope before election anniversary

Pontiff says 'laughs, cries... like everyone else'

05 March, 18:59
'I'm no Superman,'says pope before election anniversary (By Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Rome, March 5 - Pope Francis said he should not be depicted as a super hero, but as an ordinary person, in an interview published by Italian daily Corriere della Sera Wednesday ahead of the first anniversary of his election as pontiff next week.

"Depicting the pope as a sort of superman, a sort of star, seems offensive to me," said Francis, who was elected to the lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics on March 13, 2013.

"The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps well and has friends like everyone else. A normal person". Pope Francis defended the Church's record on child-sex-abuse scandals in the interview.

"The cases of abuse are terrible because they leave very deep wounds," the Argentine pontiff said.

"Benedict XVI was very courageous and he opened a road.

The Church has come a long way. Perhaps more than anyone.

"The statistics about the phenomenon of violence against children are shocking, but they also show clearly that the overwhelming majority of the abuses take place in family or neighbourhood environments. "The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that has moved with transparency and responsibility. No one else has done more.

"And yet the Church is the only one to be attacked". Francis also said his predecessor Benedict XVI should continue to participate in Church life after stepping down one year ago. "We decided together that it is better if he sees people and gets out. He is not a museum piece but an institution," said in the interview.

The former archbishop of Buenos Aires likened Benedict's current role to that of grandparents within a family.

"They strengthen families and don't deserve to finish their lives in a rest home," he said. When Benedict became the first pope to voluntarily abdicate in over 700 years, he moved into a home on the Vatican grounds and swore he would remain "hidden from the world" so as not to create confusion regarding leadership of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. But in a rare break from that vow, the retired pope made a public appearance two weeks ago at a ceremony led by Francis in St. Peter's Basilica to appoint new cardinals.

On Wednesday Francis was named one of 278 candidates for the next Nobel Peace Prize, along with such controversial figures as Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Director of the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Geir Lundestad, said the list includes 47 organizations as well as individuals, with a winner to be announced on October 10.

Other nominees include American whistleblower Edward Snowden and Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by Taliban militants opposed to education for females.

Putin was reportedly nominated for his role in the Syrian crisis, but it is widely expected that the Nobel prize committee will also be closely watching his involvement in the Ukraine where the presence of Russian troops is raising fears of war.

Lundestad said this year has seen a record number of nominees, whose names can be put forward by any elected politician from a national assembly, former laureates, international lawmakers and university professors.

He added that the names of nominees are generally kept secret but many nominators choose to make their choice public.

Pope Francis, previously named Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2013, has become a media darling as many have applauded his efforts to break from the style of past popes and establish himself as a pontiff of the people, willing to speak out on concrete issues of poverty, social justice, and human rights.

The Nobel committee is expected to narrow the candidates list to as few as 25 by the end of next month.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 94 times to 126 Nobel Laureates between 1901 and 2013, including 101 individuals and 25 organizations. Last year, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was awarded the prize.

The pope called on the faithful to abandon their "lazy addiction to evil" in an Ash Wednesday General Audience where more than 30,000 people filled St. Peter's Square. Explaining the purpose of Lent, the 40-day period that began Wednesday, the pontiff commented on how it is "time to change course", and get away from addiction that "anesthetizes the heart" in times of tragedy, violence, poverty and indifference. "Don't take violence for granted, nor our homeless brothers and sisters, nor refugees in search of dignity," said the pope, adding that "love for God can make change for the better".

The pope offered up Lent as an opportunity to confront negativity and indifference via a collective renewal in God and community. "Faith and open hearts to our brothers are essential during the Lenten period," he said. Pope Francis will be heading to a Lenten retreat by bus, the Vatican said Wednesday. On Sunday, the pope and cardinals from the Curia, the Vatican bureaucracy, will carpool rather than arrive separately in Ariccia, a suburban hilltop town 16 miles from Rome for five days of spiritual exercises.

It is the first time a pope and his Curia are not spending the Lenten retreat on Vatican grounds.

Instead they will reside at the Casa Divin Maestro to partake in daily Mass and meditations. In a conversation with Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Francis commented that he decided to hold the retreat outside of the Vatican because "in the past they listened to three sermons daily and then some of them would go back to work". Invitation to the retreat was extended to Vatican department heads and their assistants. If they can not attend, other clergy can participate upon request. The pope's decision to travel by bus recalled when, just after being named pope, he waved off the 'solemn' pontifical car and insisted on going back to the cardinals' residence in a minibus with his former colleagues who had just elected him.

His repeated shunning of perks and pomp have earned him plaudits for attempting to follow the example set by the saint he took his name from.