By editor - 20 March, 2013
In what was lauded as the longest trip that a Pope has ever made around St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis greeted and waved to as many as possible on his inauguration morning. The Pope moved around the square in a white open jeep, stopping to take a baby in his arms and bless it, and to shake hands with the people. He also stepped out of the vehicle to bless disabled man.
Earlier in the morning the Pope made a phone call to his native land where people had gathered in Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo for the inauguration. Surprising everyone with the live phone call he asked for their prayers and said; “I want to ask for us to walk together, to care for one another, for you to care for each other. Do not cause harm. Protect life. Protect the family; protect nature; protect the young; protect the elderly. Let there not be hatred or fighting. Put aside envy.”
The morning’s ceremonies in Rome involved a visit to the Tomb of St. Peter. Joined by the other patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches in their varied and colourful vestments, the Pope descended to the sepulcher for St. Peter, prayed for several minutes, and offered incense to the Apostle. With this gesture, the Pope showed his unity with the first Vicar of Christ, and takes over as the Supreme Pastor of the Eastern and Western Christians.
He also received the Fisherman’s Ring that that he will wear on the ring finger of his right hand. The ring had been designed for Paul VI who never wore it. The designer was Italian artist Enrico Manfrini and depicts St. Peter holding the keys. During Pope Francis’ Inauguration Mass, he spoke for 20 minutes in Italian about caring for others, caring for the elderly, children the poor. But he also said that in order to protect others, one must never forget to nourish oneself spiritually.
“Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!” he said. “The vocation of being a ‘protector’, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person.”
He added: “It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!”
He also appealed to those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political, and social life, and all men and women of goodwill to also be ‘protectors’. He said that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service “which has its radiant culmination on the Cross.”
After the mass the Pope greeted state leaders including our President Michael D Higgins who conveyed the greetings of the people of Ireland and thanked the Pope for his St Patrick’s Day message.
Also present at the inauguration were six sovereigns, three crown princes, 31 heads of state, 11 heads of government and more than 250 Catholic bishops and 1200 priests and seminarians. Cardinal Seán Brady was present for the inauguration mass and said in a statement:
“Today on the feast of Saint Joseph – patron saint of the universal Church – I, along with other cardinals, bishops and priests, had the honour to concelebrate Mass with Pope Francis as he began his Petrine Ministry as the Bishop of Rome. The Mass included the imposition of the Pallium and the bestowal of the Fisherman’s Ring. At today’s special Mass in Saint Peter’s Square, Rome, the Holy Father asked us to “protect with love all that God has given us!” Let us take his important request to heart.”
As well as the church and other leaders there were countless ‘ordinary’ people present – men, women, young people, elderly, and people of every, faith, language, culture, class, status, and opinion who were present. Millions of email messages have already been received, even before the new pope has an official address.
Ann Marie Foley