Inauguration Mass marks start of new papacy

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Rome - The Inauguration Mass for Pope Francis was held in Vatican City on Tuesday in the presence of more than 130 international delegations, marking the start of his papacy.

Pope Francis, formerly Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the first pope from Latin America and the first Jesuit, before the Mass toured St Peter Square, filled with tens of thousands of people.

The pope waved to the crowds who flew flags from all over the world and acclaimed him. He also descended from his open-topped vehicle to bless children and one disabled behind the barriers.

After praying at the tomb of St Peter, Francis was presented with his papal pallium, a lambs’ wool cloth symbolising his role as shepherd, in the church yard.

He then received the "fisherman's ring", which bears the image of St Peter holding two keys, officially beginning his Petrine Ministry as the 266th Bishop of Rome.

The ring was made of silver-plated gold, not the gold typically used, in line with the humble attitude Francis has repeatedly shown since he was elected by the conclave of cardinals last week to take over from resigned Benedict XVI.

During his homily, delivered in Italian, Francis called on people in "roles of responsibility" in all fields and "the whole of humanity" to be "custodians" of others as well as of the environment.

"You must not be afraid of goodness or of tenderness" which are "not a virtue of the weak but denote fortitude," he said.

He stressed the "true power" of the pope was "service." The Bishop of Rome should look to all of humanity with "affection and tenderness, especially the poorest, the weakest, the smallest," he said.

Francis has called for a "poor Church, and for the poor". He said his name was inspired by St Francis of Assisi, one of the most respected figures for his attention to the weakest in the 2000-year history of the Catholic Church.

Francis has warned the scandal-hit Church against worldly glories, saying it could crumble away "like a sand castle" without spiritual renewal.  –