Pope returns to hotel to pay bill

pope Francis returned to the Church-run residence where he was staying before becoming pontiff.

Pope Francis, Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio, leading a mass at the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican on March 14, 2013 a day after his election. AFP

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis returned on Thursday to the Church-run residence where he was staying before becoming pontiff, and insisted on paying the bill, despite now effectively being in charge of the business, the Vatican said.

The morning after his election, Francis asked a driver to take him to the clerics' hotel, the Domus Internationalis Paulus VI, where he had stayed during the run-up to this week's secret electoral conclave.

"He wanted to get his luggage and the bags. He had left everything there," a Vatican spokesman told a news briefing.

"He then stopped in the office, greeted everyone and decided to pay the bill for the room ... because he was concerned about giving a good example of what priests and bishops should do."

The spokesman did not disclose the amount of the bill.

Jorge Bergoglio brought with him a reputation for frugality from his native Argentina. The first pope in 1,300 years born outside Europe, he is the first to take the name of St. Francis of Assisi - a gesture of solidarity with the poor from the new leader of an institution long associated with great wealth which is now battling to retain loyalty among its congregations.

Father Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, who lives in the central Rome boarding house where Bergoglio had stayed, told Reuters he was surprised the new pope had insisted on settling his account: "I don't think he needs to worry about the bill," he said.

"The house is part of the Church, and it's his Church now."

Rytel-Andrianik said Bergoglio had been a regular guest: "When we were eating at the table, you wouldn't realise he was a cardinal unless you already knew. He was just like any priest.

"He never asked for a car although he could have done," he recalled. "He always took the metro or walked."