Pope Francis’s more frugal approach to life is seeing senior Vatican figures scramble to show their own ascetic side.
A number of bishops and high prelates have already replaced their golden crosses with silver or metal ones. The pontiff himself sports a cross made of iron. Now the austerity drive has switched from accessories to wheels. More than 20 prelates and monsignors have traded their luxury cars for more modest utility cars.
Francis made his thoughts on luxury cars crystal clear in July when he said: “It bothers me when I see a priest or a sister with a brand new car.”
The pontiff has ditched the Mercedes used by Benedict XVI and opted for an old Ford Focus.
The winds of change were signalled as soon as Francis succeeded Benedict. Minutes after his election in March, he symbolically shunned the traditional papal red cape trimmed with ermine, saying: “Carnival time is over.”
The trend in eschewing worldly goods is expected to speed up after Francis this week suspended German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz van Elst, the so called “Bishop of Bling”, who was punished after spending €31m – including €15,000 on a bath tub – to renovate his house.