Pope Francis has attacked the hype surrounding his papacy, claiming yesterday he is a "normal person" and calling comparisons between himself and Superman "offensive".
The Pope, 77, whose charisma has been credited with boosting flagging church attendances and who has even appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in his year in the Vatican, said he objected to the myths about him.
"Sigmund Freud said, if I am not mistaken, that behind every idealisation there is aggression," he told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
"Portraying the Pope as a kind of Superman, a type of star, seems offensive," he said. "The Pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps tranquilly and has friends like everyone. A normal person."
He denied reports that he crept out of the Vatican at night to give food to tramps. "That never crossed my mind," he said.
After the appearance of graffiti near the Vatican depicting Francis as a superhero, a new weekly magazine called Il Mio Papa, or My Pope, was published yesterday featuring a centrefold pullout picture.
The magazine is published by Mondadori, owned by Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian Prime Minister.
The Vatican also appears to be doing its bit to encourage so-called Francesco mania, issuing commemorative stamps and a DVD with unseen footage of the Pope as he nears the March 13 anniversary of his election.
In the newspaper interview, the Pope also proposed giving an active role to retired popes, raising the possibility that he may choose to follow the precedent set by Benedict XVI and retire rather than die in office.