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Trading in the bus for a butler: The new pope's new lifestyle

After distancing himself from the traditional pomp and privilege of his new title, Pope Francis – known for his sincerity and frugality – has shown every indication that he plans to remain an educator and a pastor in addition to all of his other responsibilities. NBC's Anne Thompson reports.

The Mercedes popemobile. The 10-room penthouse apartment. The Swiss Guards.

The worldly trappings of the papacy will be a big adjustment for a former prince of the church who tried to live like a pauper.

© Reuters Photographer / Reuters / REUTERS

Pope Francis was known for his common touch when he was cardinal of Argentina.

Before he was Pope Francis, Argentinian archbishop Jorge Bergoglio was known for shunning the perks of the job -- the palace, the chauffeur, the red vestments -- for a simpler life befitting a Jesuit priest.

Now that he's leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, the man who took a vow of poverty at age 22 will have to get off the bus and get used to having a butler.

Or maybe it's the Vatican that's in for a change. Within minutes of being named pontiff, the new boss was already putting a stamp of simplicity on papal life.


He did not sit on the papal throne to receive the cardinals, he didn't don a red cloak over his white cassock, and he declined to take an official car back to the hotel, opting to take the bus with the rest of the group, a Vatican spokesman said Thursday.

In Buenos Aires, Bergoglio walked to his office and often used buses -- likened by one travel writer to "old men in a bar – loud, smoky, rough around the edges" -- to get around town.

Osservatore Romano / Reuters file

He used to take the bus, but this is Pope Francis' new ride.

He's unlikely to have that lack of luxury as pope, if only for security reasons. His main ride will be the white armored Mercedes SUV with an elevated glass enclosure, known to the world as the popemobile. The interior is white leather with gold trim.

For longer jaunts across Italy he has the option of a helicopter, staffed by pilots from the Italian Air Force. Commercial jets are chartered for flights around the world, and the pope sits up front.

His new digs will be first-class, too.

As a cardinal, Bergoglio was entitled to live in an opulent mansion but chose to bed down in a spartan downtown apartment, keeping warm with a stove when the building turned off the heat on weekends, according to The Associated Press.

Soon he'll move to a sprawling wrap-around suite on the top floor of the Apostolic Palace that 200 workers spent three months renovating in 2005.

There's a private chapel, a medical office, a library large enough to hold Pope Benedict XVI's 20,000 books, a state-of-the-art German kitchen with onyx counters, and the office from which he blesses the crowd in St. Peter's on Sundays.

A lavish home fit for a pope
The floors are 16th century inlaid marble polished to a gleam. The loggia that leads to the apartment is covered in historic frescoes. There's access to a rooftop garden, and the attic has small apartments for guests and staff.

The household retinue includes a butler, a couple of secretaries, and women from a lay association known as Memores Domini who cook and clean

That will seem like a crowd to Pope Francis, who lived alone in Argentina and spent every morning sitting next to his landline phone, personally taking calls from parish priests and recording their complaints and requests in a small notebook, a former aide told NBC Latino.

Luciano Thieberger / AP file

No fancy wines for Pope Francis. He prefers "mate," a traditional South American beverage.

Bergoglio also cooked for himself, and his favorite meal might horrify the average Italian: skinless chicken and salad. He does enjoy a glass of wine -- or a shot of espresso while in Rome -- but usually settles down with a spot of Argentinian tea called mate.

At the Vatican, typical meals might include pasta with salmon and zucchini or rigatoni with prosciutto, prepared on a marble table with vegetables imported from the papal vacation home, Castel Gandolfo. Rich desserts like strudel or tiramisu were on the menu under Benedict's watch.

If he packs on a few pounds, no worries: A major wardrobe change is also in the offing.

While some cardinals seem to love cloaking themselves in the crimson robes that advertise their rarefied status, Bergoglio covered up with a black overcoat. The Argentinian newspaper La Nacion reported that he didn't order new clothes when he was elevated; he had the previous cardinal's hand-me-downs tailored to fit him.

Osservatore Romano / Reuters

As a cardinal, he covered up his telltale red vestments with a plain black overcoat. Pope Francis will now wear white and be outfitted by tailor Gammarelli's.

After Pope Francis was elected on Wednesday evening, the papal tailor Gammarelli's would have offered him a burgundy mozzetta, a short cape either in red velvet trimmed in white fur or in silk brocade to wear over his cassock. He demurred, and no one will be shocked if he decides against the red leather slippers that became Benedict's trademark.

Even though he was his country's top church official, Bergoglio rarely interacted with the press, preferring to make his points from the pulpit. Soon he'll have reporters from around the world scrutinizing his every word and gesture.

Father Jorge, as he was called at home, will be known as His Holiness. But those close to him expect the railway worker's son will cling to some of the pared-down aspects of his former existence.

"This routine is his life's backbone," Father Guillermo Marcó, who worked for him for eight years, told NBC Latino. "And he will try to keep it in place as much as possible."

At a papal briefing, the Vatican offered details about what happened inside the Sistine Chapel and afterwards following the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina as the next pope.

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Full coverage of Pope Francis on NBC News