Vatican City

Pope Francis winds up first day

Church risks becoming NGO without Jesus, says pontiff

Pope Francis winds up first day

(By Kate Carlisle) Vatican City, March 14 - The Vatican on Thursday stressed that the new pope should be called Francis, not Francis I. "You only need to call him Francis, not Francis I," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told a news conference. The new pope took the name to honour Saint Francis of Assisi, according to the Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, one of the cardinals who took part in the conclave. There had been speculation that the pontiff may have become the first pope to take the name as a tribute to Francis Xavier, a 16th-century Spanish saint and co-founder of the Jesuit order that the newly elected pope belongs to. "St Francis took care of the poor and humble and this will be his job," Dolan told reporters. Francis also showed he still had a good sense of humour after being elected pontiff, telling the cardinals who elected him "May God forgive you". The new head of the Catholic Church "brought the house down" with the comment when dining with cardinals after the conclave on Wednesday, according to Dolan. Dolan, who was considered one of the favourites to become pope before the conclave, said Francis had "won our hearts" with his "beautiful sincerity, simplicity and humility". Pope Francis started his first full day as the head of the Catholic Church with a visit to Rome's Santa Maria Maggiore (St Mary Major) Basilica. The Argentine pontiff, who was elected the first South American pope on Wednesday, prayed before a famous icon of the Virgin Mary called the Salus Populi Romani (Protectress of the Roman People). Father Ludovico Melo, a priest who prayed with the pope, said Francis spent around 30 minutes in the papal basilica that is sometimes used by pontiffs, sang the Salve Regina hymn and spoke to people in the church to confess. "Mercy, mercy, mercy," the pope said, according to Melo. "You are confessors so be merciful with the souls". "It seemed like he has always been pope," Father Elio Monteleone said of Francis, who visited the basilica dedicated to Mary less than 24 hours after he had been elected the new head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. "He was not embarrassed or afraid. He greeted us all one by one. He was very warm and very simple". Later in the day the new pope went to a residence in central Rome where he had been staying before the conclave to collect his things. He then celebrated his first mass on Thursday inside the Sistine Chapel with the College of Cardinals. In his homily, Francis told cardinals that "the Church risks becoming a non-governmental organization if it is not married to the Lord". The first prayer was a blessing for the Argentine pontiff and his predecessor Benedict XVI. It was followed by a call for the leaders of nations "not to lord over people". At the end of the mass, a prayer was said for "those who are suffering, the struggling and forlorn". Like the saint for which he took his name, Pope Francis is shunning the perks and pomp of office. He waved off the "solemn" pontifical car offered after he became pope Wednesday night and insisted on going back to the cardinals' residence in a minibus with the former colleagues who had just elected him, Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Thursday. When he left his hotel Thursday morning, Lombardi added, "He paid his bill to set a good example". As Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, the new pope was known for living in a modest flat and using public transport. Pope watchers have also noted Francis is not wearing a new golden papal cross around his neck, keeping his simple, small silver one, and has eschewed the dainty red shoes sported by his predecessor Benedict XVI. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Thursday congratulated Pope Francis on his election as 266th leader of the Catholic Church and said Italy was proud to would work with him on a global stage to help boost rights, peace and social justice. Napolitano said Francis's election was "cause of universal and joyous emotion", adding that the history and moral values of Italy and the Church were "indissolubly bound". "The figure of St Francis of Assisi, whom Your Holiness chose to be inspired by...embodies this shared spiritual richness". The Italian president stressed that the "solid links" between Italy and the Holy See "are aimed at pursuing the common good and promoting an international order which assures inviolable rights, the dignity and liberty of people, social justice and peace". He praised Francis's "simple" reference to his role as Bishop of Rome in his address to the crowds in St Peter's square Wednesday night. Global media outlets greeted the election of Pope Francis, pointing out the new pontiff's humble origins and wishing him well. In its online edition Wednesday, The Guardian titled "Buonasera, Pope Francis". French daily Le Figaro headlined: "Francis, the pope of brotherhood", and wrote in an editorial that he was a "figure of hope". Other leading French daily Le Monde opened with the headline "The pope of new horizons". Spanish publication El Pais headlined: "A giant challenge for a different pope", while El Mundo, in an editorial, led with "The humble pope". The election of Pope Francis was a "positive surprise" that will hopefully help the Church regain some face, Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn told Austrian Press Agency (APA) Thursday. "We all hope that the Pope restores the good name of the Vatican," Schoenborn said. Francis is expected to receive cardinals, both electors who participated in the conclave and those who did not, on Friday, and meet journalists the day after. He will lead his first Angelus as pope in St Peter's Square on Sunday and the inaugural mass of his pontificate will take place on Tuesday.

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