VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis inaugurated his papacy with a
Mass in front of hundreds of thousands of people and foreign leaders in St.
Peter's Square on Tuesday with a simplified rite that fueled 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 signalling 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 pope-mobile used frequently by Benedict.
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
He wore plain white vestments and black shoes, in
contrast to the luxurious red loafers that attracted attention under
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
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
"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
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.
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.
Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio has aroused enormous enthusiasm and
interest in the Catholic world due to the modest way he has assumed a post that
was modeled after a Renaissance monarchy and carries titles such as "Vicar of
Jesus Christ" and "Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church".
In the six
days since his election, he has referred to himself only as Bishop of Rome, the
position from which his authority flows, and hinted he plans to reduce Vatican
centralism and govern in consultation with other bishops.
receive the visiting political leaders in the basilica after the Mass.
Wednesday, 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.
Francis had his
first taste of the diplomatic challenges of the papacy when on Monday,
Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez asked him to support Buenos Aires in a
dispute with Britain over the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.
Vatican spokesman had no comment on the request.
He will also find
himself greeting an international pariah, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, who
has been under a European Union travel ban since 2002 because of allegations of
vote rigging and human rights abuses.
The Vatican is not part of the
European Union, allowing Mugabe to travel there.
The Vatican on Monday
revealed the new pope's coat of arms, similar to the one he used as Archbishop
of Buenos Aires, with symbols representing Jesus, Mary and
Symbols of the papacy have been added behind it, including two
keys which signify the Biblical passage in which Jesus told St. Peter he would
give him "the keys of the kingdom" of heaven.
The motto on his coat of
arms is "Miserando atque eligendo" (Having had mercy, he called him), which
comes from a meditation by the Venerable Bede, an English monk in the 8th
century, on a passage of the Gospel in which Jesus calls St. Matthew to be an
In various sermons and comments since his surprise election last
Wednesday, the pope has urged people to be more merciful and not to be so quick
to condemn the failings of others.
The papal ring chosen by Francis is
made of gold-plated silver and depicts St. Peter holding the keys, the Vatican
Francis inherits a Church mired in scandals over priestly abuse of
children and the leak of confidential documents alleging corruption and fierce
rivalry between cardinals inside the Church government or Curia.
also been accused by some critics in Argentina of not doing enough to oppose
human rights abuses under a military government during the 1976-1983 "dirty war"
when some 30,000 leftists were kidnapped and killed.