Pope to celebrate two years at Vatican

In his first two years as leader of the Church, Francis has sought to bring openness, consultation and humility to the Vatican.

By REUTERS
March 12, 2015 15:18
3 minute read.

Pope marks second anniversary on March 13

Pope marks second anniversary on March 13

Little was known of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina as he caught the world's attention two years ago when he was named pontiff following the resignation of Pope Benedict. But, he soon became a household name as his pontificate ushered in a new era at the Vatican.

When he appeared on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica on March 13, 2013, he looked almost startled, hesitating a moment before stepping out to greet the huge crowds gathered in the square below to catch a glimpse of the new pontiff.

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In his first two years as leader of the Church, Francis has sought to bring openness, consultation and humility to the Vatican.

Although he is as conservative doctrinally as the former Pope Benedict, the simpler style shown by Francis, and his emphasis on the poor, has marked a change from his predecessor that has been widely welcomed by Catholics.

In his first words to the crowd on the evening of his election, Pope Francis immediately showed a more humble approach to his pontificate than had been seen with his predecessor.

"I ask you to pray for me," he said.

The hard-working, industrious but simple attitude has been evident in his papacy.

Francis has forsaken many of the trappings used by his predecessors. He gave up the spacious papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace for a small apartment in a guest house within the Vatican walls and is driven in a simple car instead of the papal limousine.

The 266th pontiff in the Church's 2,000-year history, Francis took the helm at a time of great crisis. He inherited a Church mired in scandals over priests' sexual abuse of children and the leak of confidential documents alleging corruption and rivalry between cardinals inside the Church government or Curia.

The Jesuit pope has urged his own Church to set an example by being more fair and frugal and less pompous, and to get closer to the poor and afflicted. In July 2013 he traveled to the southern island of Lampedusa to throw a wreath into the sea after hundreds of migrants had lost their lives trying to cross the water from Libya.

Francis has hosted an impressive number of visitors at the Vatican. From German Chancellor Angela Merkel to U.S. President Barack Obama, the British Queen and footballing legend, Maradona.

His foreign visits have so far concentrated on the developing world. He brought tears to pilgrims' eyes in Brazil in 2013, joined in with a 'selfie' in South Korea and donned a plastic mac in the Philippines as he braved a typhoon.

Francis has appointed a committee of eight cardinals from around the world to advise him on how to reform the central Vatican administration.

He also named commissions to advise him on what to do with the scandal-plagued Vatican bank, on transparency in other parts of Vatican finance and on how to deal with the Church's many sexual abuse scandals.

In February 2014 , Francis revolutionised the Vatican's finances, inviting outside experts into a world often seen as murky and secretive and saying the church must use its wealth to help the poor.

Pope Francis celebrated his 78th birthday in December 2014 in his usual low-key style receiving a cake from Argentinian priests as he travelled through St. Peter's square on the pope-mobile and sharing a local Argentinian drink, 'mate'.

He will mark his second anniversary in the same simple way. But, the sight of hundreds of tango dancers carrying out a flash mob in honour of the papal birthday in St. Peter's square certainly let everyone know that a new era had taken over the Vatican.

On Friday Pope Francis will preside over a penitential celebration, a time taken by Catholics for contemplation and reflection.
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