Vatican City

Pope Francis celebrates inauguration mass

Pontiff calls on powerful to protect environment

Pope Francis celebrates inauguration mass

(By Paul Virgo) Vatican City, March 19 - Pope Francis made it clear that he intends to protect the world's poor and weak when he celebrated the inauguration mass of his papacy in St Peter's Square on Tuesday. Francis said that he will look to the example of Saint Joseph, whose feast is celebrated on Tuesday, and that the real power of being pope was to work at the service of the poor. "Let us never forget 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," he said before a huge crowd. "He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God's people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. "Only those who serve with love are able to protect!" Francis also seemed to direct part of his homily towards the delegations of 132 governments present, when he called on the world's powerful to protect the environment and told them not to be afraid of goodness and tenderness. "Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill - let us be "protectors" of creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment," Francis said. "Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world. But to be 'protectors we also have to keep watch over ourselves. "Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives. "Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions - intentions that build up and tear down. We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness". Francis was presented with the Piscatory ring, or the Ring of the Fisherman, by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, after entering the St Peter's Square. Francis chose a model of Piscatory ring made of gold-plated silver designed by the late Italian sculptor Enrico Manfrini, who died in 2004. The Ring of the Fisherman, which depicts St. Peter fishing from the side of a boat, is usually cast in gold for each pope. The fact that Francis chose to have a silver ring has been seen by many as a sign that he is aiming to be the "pope of the poor". Francis also received another symbol of papal power, the pallium, a lambswool cloth symbolising the pontiff's role as a shepherd that was placed over his shoulders. The religious part of the inauguration mass started when the new pope prayed on his knees before St. Peter's tomb inside St Peter's Basilica. Francis toured St Peter's Square in an open-top jeep to salute the crowd before the ceremony. A huge wave of cheers and applause greeted the pontiff, who was elected Benedict XVI's successor at last week's conclave. Francis got out of the jeep at one point to say hello to a disabled person. Moments later he stopped the vehicle to stoke and kiss two children held out to him from the crowd, which was dotted with the flags of countries from all over the world, including many from the pope's native Argentina. He also blessed the faithful, smiled and seemed to mouth the word 'ciao'. After the tour, Francis went back inside to put on his ceremonial vestments. Francis paid tribute to Benedict XVI at the inauguration mass. He pointed out that Tuesday is Benedict's saint's day, as his predecessor Benedict's birth name is Joseph Ratzinger. "It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor - we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude," Francis said. Benedict stepped down as pope last month, saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to continue to lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. Before the mass, Francis called via telephone a crowd gathered in Buenos Aires to watch the inauguration on a big screen. "Let's walk united all together," the former archbishop of the Argentine capital said. "Let's take care of each other and keep praying for me".

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