Pope prepares for 'poverty' visit

100,000 pilgrims are set to follow the pope on his visit to the hometown of St Francis of Assisi. (AAP)

As the pope prepares to visit the home of St Francis of Assisi, whose name he adopted, there's talk of a possible major announcement.

Pope Francis will outline how the Catholic Church should follow the humble example of St Francis of Assisi during an historic visit to the hometown of the saint whose name he adopted.

Some 100,000 pilgrims and more than 1,000 journalists are expected to follow the Argentine pope as he visits the sites associated with the mediaeval saint in the hilltown in Umbria in central Italy.

The son of a wealthy cloth merchant, Francesco Bernardone grew up an arrogant and war-mongering young man before his spiritual enlightenment. He famously shed his robes in front of his father in a renunciation of earthly riches and donned a sackcloth to live like, and for, the poor.

"I want to talk about how the Church should take off its clothes, how in some way the Church should repeat the gesture of St Francis," the bishop of Assisi, Domenico Sorrentino, quoted the pope as telling him ahead of Friday's visit.

During the visit, the pope is expected to meet groups of poor, sick and handicapped people who are being looked after by Catholic orders or charities.

The pope has said the visit is a "pilgrimage" to visit the home of St Francis (1182-1226), whom he has praised for preaching peace, protecting all of God's creation and reaching out to the needy.

There is expectation in Vatican circles of a possible major announcement during the visit.

Francis, who has called for a "poor Church for the poor", has said he wants to overhaul the 2,000-year-old institution, making it less "Vatican-centric" and closer to ordinary people.

One of his proposals was to use abandoned monasteries and convents to house refugees and there are rumours that he could announce the abandonment of archaic clerical titles.

Source: AAP