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Pope offended by his own myth and mystique


VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Francis finds the hype that is increasingly surrounding him "offensive," according to an interview published Wednesday, even as the Vatican itself is marking the anniversary of his election with commemorative stamps and coins and a DVD with never-before-seen footage of the pope.

Francis told Italian daily Corriere della Sera he doesn't appreciate the myth-making that has seen him depicted as a "Superpope" (as an Italian street artist recently painted him) who sneaks out at night to feed the poor (as Italian newspapers have suggested).

On Wednesday, he had to contend with a new bout of celebrity as "My Pope" hit Italian newsstands, a weekly gossip magazine devoted entirely to Francis. It is published by Mondadori, which is owned by ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi's media empire. In addition, at his general audience, someone tried to give him a replica of an Oscar statue that said "Oscar Pope" on it.

"I don't like ideological interpretations, this type of mythology of Pope Francis," the pope told Corriere. "If I'm not mistaken, Sigmund Freud said that in every idealization there's an aggression. Depicting the pope as a sort of Superman, a star, is offensive to me.

"The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps calmly and has friends like everyone else. A normal person."

Francis marks his anniversary as pope March 13. For the occasion, the Vatican has issued new coins and stamps. The DVD will feature behind-the-scenes footage of the pope leaving the Sistine Chapel just after he was elected and praying in the nearby Paoline Chapel before he went out onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to greet the world with his famous "Buonasera."

In the interview, Francis also said he and Pope Benedict XVI had agreed that the emeritus pontiff wouldn't remain hidden away, as Benedict had said he would spend his retirement, but would participate more in the life of the church. That's in keeping with Francis' belief that the elderly have a wealth of wisdom to offer younger generations.

"The emeritus pope isn't a statue in a museum. He's an institution," Francis said. "We talked about it and we decided together that it would be better if he sees people, gets out and participates in the life of the church."

Benedict recently attended the recent ceremony to formally install 19 new cardinals, the first time he and Francis had appeared together in St. Peter's. He is widely expected to attend the April 27 canonizations of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII.

"Some might have wanted him to retire away in a Benedictine abbey far from the Vatican," Francis said. "I thought about grandparents who with their wisdom and advice give strength to their families and don't deserve to end up in an old folks' home."

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