May 21, 2013
Hope for change as new Pope inaugurated
Pope Francis inaugurated his papacy with a Mass in front of hundreds of thousands of people and foreign leaders in St. Peter's Square with a simplified rite that fuelled hopes for change in the scandal-plagued Roman Catholic Church.
Francis, the first Jesuit pope, has already put his mark on the papacy, abandoning much of the baroque pomp of his predecessor Benedict and signaling that he wants a Church whose first priority is the poor and disadvantaged.
He toured a crammed St. Peter's Square under bright sunshine before the mass in an open white jeep, abandoning the bullet-proof popemobile used frequently by Benedict.
He stopped frequently to greet some of the hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the sprawling square, kissing babies and getting out at one point to bless a disabled person.
He wore plain white vestments and black shoes, in contrast to the luxurious red loafers that attracted attention under Benedict.
The ceremony conducted from an altar on the steps of the huge basilica was also been shortened to two hours after a three-hour service in 2005 when Benedict began his papacy.
Before the Mass, Francis collected his newly minted gold ring and pallium, a liturgical woollen band worn around the neck, that had been placed overnight on the tomb of St. Peter under the basilica's altar.
He processed out of the church in a column of cardinals chanting a litany calling for support for the new pontiff from saints, including several previous popes.
The Mass formally installs Francis as the new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
Many in the crowd said they had high hopes of a more humble papacy under Francis, who as a Jesuit has taken a vow of poverty.
"He is a simple, humble person, he is not like the untouchable popes, he seems like someone normal people can reach out to," said Argentine electrician Cirigliano Valetin, 51, who works in southern Italy.
"My first impression is that the pope is very humble, and has taken the church in his heart," said Isaac Adroamabe from Arua in Uganda, who is studying to be a priest in Rome.
"I think he is going to fulfill his promises, he will lead the Church based on the example of St. Francis, you can already see he is a down-to-earth pope who mingles with the people," he said.
Six sovereigns, US Vice President Joe Biden, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, other leaders as well as heads of many other faiths were among the 130 delegations on the steps of the famous basilica.
Among them was Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew from Istanbul, the first time the spiritual head of Orthodox Christians has attended a Roman pope's inaugural Mass since the Great Schism between western and eastern Christianity in 1054.Tomorrow, Francis will receive more than 30 delegations representing other Christian churches, as well as from the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain religions, a Vatican spokesman said.
He will address foreign ambassadors to the Vatican on Friday and have lunch with Benedict, their first meeting since the conclave, on Saturday before leading celebrations the next day for Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week leading to Easter.