Pope Francis blasts cardinal's extravagant penthouse

Pope Francis is experiencing unprecedented popularity, which many attribute to his humility,# and focus on the poor.

If you've ever had the misfortune of house hunting on a budget, you might have come across some far-reaching phrases such as "excellent views of local wildlife" - if you're lucky you might catch a glimpse of a fox rummaging through next door's overflowing bins - or "shared roof terrace", i.e. there's no chance of a garden, so instead make awkward conversation with your neighbours while you pretend the London smog isn't causing slow asphyxiation.

One lucky tenant in Rome, however, can boast stunning views, a private balcony and a not-too-shabby 4,000 square feet of room at his new penthouse apartment.

And who is this fortunate fellow you ask? Only Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, formerly secretary of state at the Vatican.

According to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Bertone has authorised the merging of two existing flats to create a single, four-storey complex which he will share with three nuns employed in domestic servitude.

Retired last October after serving in his previous role since 2006, Bertone has allegedly been slammed by Pope Francis - who himself advocates a more simple way of life - for this extravagance.

As a cardinal in Buenos Aires, Francis rejected living quarters in the elegant archbishop's residence, instead preferring to remain in an austere room elsewhere. Similarly, upon his election to papacy last March, Francis chose to reside in a small suite in the Domus Sanctae Marthae guesthouse rather than the luxurious papal apartments of the Apostolic Papacy in Rome.

His simplistic lifestyle doesn't stop there either; the Pope also gave up use of the famous Popemobile - a Mercedes-Benz - choosing instead to travel in a 30-year-old Renault 4 given to him as a symbolic gift of his humility by an Italian priest.

Francis has been keen to rid the Catholic church of corruption, repeatedly calling for a "poor church for the poor", and signalling his intention to clean up the Vatican's finances which have long been under scrutiny. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that he has apparently condemned Cardinal Bertone's living quarters, and is supposedly "furious" at the unnecessary expense.

Reports in the Italian press suggest that an address the Pope gave before Easter, in which he lambasted "unctuous, sumptuous, presumptuous" members of the clergy, was aimed at shaming Bertone.

Francis is quoted as underlining the importance of selfless acts, and working for the good of others no matter the expense of one's own comfort. "Unless you 'exit' from yourself, the oil grows rancid and the anointing cannot be fruitful. Going out from ourselves presupposes self-denial; it means poverty," he declared.

Suspicion that the Pope is unhappy with Bertone was fuelled by his spokesperson refusing to comment on the situation. "I have nothing to say," Father Federico Lombardi told La Repubblica.

Bertone, however, claims that these reports are unfounded. "I don't understand these attacks, I am in harmony with the Pope. He likes me," he told Italian news agency ANSA.

The Guardian reports that Bertone has written a letter to his former diocese further refuting the dispute between himself and the Pontiff, in which he contends that he received an "affectionate telephone call" from Francis, expressing "his solidarity and isappointment at the attacks directed at me over the apartment".

The former cardinal also defended the flat itself, sharing that the conversion occurred "at my own expense" and that it will be passed on to someone else when he leaves the Vatican.