Pope appeals to world leaders in inaugural mass
Huge crowds throng St Peter’s Square for a Mass to inaugurate papacy
Pope Francis takes part in his inaugural mass in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican. Photograph: Paul Hanna/Reuters
Pope Francis kisses a child as he arrives in Saint Peter's Square for his inaugural mass at the Vatican this morning. Photograph: Tony Gentile/Reuters
Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Rome’s St Peter’s Square for the inaugural Mass of Pope Francis this morning which he concelebrated with 180 senior Catholic clergy in brilliant sunshine.
Earlier he had tourned the Square in an SUV, waving to the crowds.
In his homily he placed great emphasis on protecting the environment, caring for all people, and spoke of the power of the papacy being one of service if it is to be authentic.
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Noting that today was the feast of St Joseph, patron of the church, he described the saint as protector of Mary, Jesus and the church. “The vocation of being a ‘protector’....means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the book of Genesis tells us and as St Francis of Assisi showed us,” he said.
“It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about,” he said.
Addressing “allthose who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill” he appealed “let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.”
He added “one more thing”. Caring, he said, “demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness” . This was “a sign of strength of spirit and (showed) a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openess to others, for love.”
Noting that the papacy “involves a certain power”, he continued “let us never forget that authentic power is service,and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more into that service which has its radiant power on the cross.”
The Pope must “open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important...the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison.”
Earlier in the Mass the palium was placed in Pope Francis’s shoulders and he was presented with the Fisherman’s ring, both symbols of the papacy. Six cardinals then pledged obedience on behlf of all in the College of Cardinals.
Among the attendance were the President Michael D Higgins, the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, representing the Government, the Catholic primate Cardinal Sean Brady and Gillian Kingston of the Methodist Church in Ireland, representing the World Methodist Council.
Altogether there were delegations from 132 countries there.These included 31 heads of state, from Austria, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Canada, Poland, Portugal, and the EU,etc. Also present were three crown princes, from Spain, Holland, and Bahrain, as well as 11 heads of government.
These included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the President of France Francois Hollande, President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and US Vice President Joe Biden.
Churches and ecclesial communities were represented by 33 delegations including the Orthodox Churches Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians Karekin II, and the Metropolitan Hilarion of the Patriarchate of Moscow which was represented at a papal inauguration for the first time today.
There representing the Anglican Communion was Archbishop of York John Sentamu, and the secretary of the World Council of Churches Rev Dr Fykse Tveit. Among 16 Jewish representatives present were those from the Jewish community in Rome, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the World Jewish Congress, and the Anti-Defamation League. Also there were delegations of Muslims, Buddhists, and Sikhs.
After the Mass Pope Francis was due to meet President Higgins and other heads of delegations before the high altar in St Peter’s Basilica.