Pope Francis waves to the crowd of at least 150,000 from the window of his private apartment as he leads his first Angelus in St. Peter's Square March 17. His Angelus talk was one of several that he gave during his first days as pope.

CNS PHOTO | L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO

Pope Francis waves to the crowd of at least 150,000 from the window of his private apartment as he leads his first Angelus in St. Peter's Square March 17. His Angelus talk was one of several that he gave during his first days as pope.

March 25, 2013
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

Pope Francis began his term as the 266th pontiff of the Catholic Church by urging the cardinals who elected him to take up the cross and avoid the worldliness of the devil.

Without faith in Christ's sacrifice on the cross, the Church is nothing more than a "pitiful NGO," Pope Francis said in his first homily as pope.

"When one does not confess Christ," he said, "one confesses the worldliness of the devil."

The pope spoke at Mass March 14 in the Sistine Chapel, site of the conclave that had elected him the previous day. It was one of several talks he gave during the first four days of his pontificate prior to his installation Mass March 19.

In one of the first signs of change from the previous pontificate, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at a temporary altar that allowed him to face the rest of the congregation.

In recent years, Pope Benedict XVI had celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel at an altar fixed to the wall under Michelangelo's fresco of the Last Judgment.

Preaching for seven minutes in Italian without a written text or notes, Pope Francis spoke about three important kinds of movement that he said appeared in the Scripture readings at the Mass: walking, building and confessing.

"Our life is a path," he said. "When we stop, the thing doesn't go." Catholics must "walk always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that blamelessness that God asks of Abraham in his promise."

"Build with living stones, anointed by the Holy Spirit," the pope said. "Confess Jesus. If we don't do that, we will be a pitiful NGO (non-governmental organization)."

He also compared building without faith to sand castles children construct on the beach, which are washed away by the next tide.

Pope Francis began his first full day as pope with an early morning act of Marian devotion - and by paying the bill at the clergy hotel where he had stayed before entering the conclave that elected him.

PRAYS TO MARY

The new pope left the Domus Sanctae Marthae at 8 a.m. March 14 for a five-minute drive to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where he prayed before an icon of Mary and the child Jesus beloved by Romans, the Salus Populi Romani (Protectress of the Roman People).

He knelt in prayer for a while, then sat praying for several minutes before leaving at the altar the bouquet of flowers he had been carrying, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.

Pope Francis, a Jesuit, then went to the Sistine Chapel of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, which is where St. Ignatius of Loyola celebrated his first Mass in 1538.

Afterward, riding in an unmarked police car rather than in a papal sedan, Pope Francis went to the Domus Internationalis Paulus VI, a hotel and residence for clergy, which is where he was staying before the conclave began March 12.

Pope Francis greets Fr. Gonzalo Aemilius who works with street kids and drug addicts in Montevideo, Uruguay. The pope recognized the priest in the crowd at a Mass he celebrated March 17.

CNS PHOTO | L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO

Pope Francis greets Fr. Gonzalo Aemilius who works with street kids and drug addicts in Montevideo, Uruguay. The pope recognized the priest in the crowd at a Mass he celebrated March 17.

Lombardi said Pope Francis went to collect the suitcase he had left there. On the way out of the building, he stopped to greet the people who work there and paid his bill.

The spokesman also told reporters that the new pope is a polyglot who speaks Spanish, English, Italian, French, German "and probably Portuguese."

The following day, he urged the entire College of Cardinals never to give in to the devil's pessimism, discouragement and bitterness.

Christians need to share the Gospel message with joy and courage because it will truly answer people's deepest needs, he said in a March 15 talk.

Pope Francis recalled Pope Benedict XVI's message that it is Christ through his Spirit, not individuals, leading the Church through history.

"We never give in to pessimism, that bitterness that the devil offers us every day," knowing the Holy Spirit's life-giving and unifying force is at work, he told the cardinals.

Never give in to discouragement either, he said, because "we have the firm certainty that the Holy Spirit gives the Church, with its powerful breeze, the courage to persevere and also to find new methods of evangelization, to bring the Gospel to the far ends of the earth."

DEEPEST NEEDS

"The Christian Church is attractive and persuasive because it responds to humanity's deepest needs," he said.

On March 16, the new pope met with the more than 5,000 media representatives who came from around the world for the conclave and his election.

Pope Francis explained to the media that while the Church includes a large institution with centuries of history, "the Church does not have a political nature, but a spiritual one."

The pope acknowledged how difficult it is for many media to cover the Church as a spiritual, rather than a political, institution.

No one can understand the Church without understanding its spiritual purpose, he said.

"Christ is the pastor of the Church, but his presence passes through the freedom of human beings," he said. "Among them, one is chosen to serve as his vicar on earth. But Christ is the centre, the focal point."

After personally greeting dozens of journalists and representatives of various Vatican organizations, the pope came back to the microphone.

"I know that many of you are not Catholic or are not believers, so I impart my heartfelt blessing to each of you silently, respecting your consciences, but knowing that each of you is a child of God. May God bless you," he said.

GOD'S MERCY

In his first Sunday Angelus talk in St. Peter's Square March 17, Pope Francis told an overflow crowd never to despair of God's mercy to sinners.

"The Lord never tires of forgiving," he said, before leading his listeners in praying the midday Angelus. "It is we who tire of asking for forgiveness."

Commenting on the day's Gospel reading, Pope Francis noted that Jesus addresses a woman caught in adultery, not with words of scorn or condemnation, "but only words of love, of mercy, which invite her to conversion."

That morning, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Church of St. Anne inside Vatican City, where his homily also treated the subject of divine mercy.

"It is not easy to trust in the mercy of God, because that is an incomprehensible abyss," he said. "But we must do it."

Jesus likes us to tell him even our worst sins, the pope said. "He forgets; he has a special ability to forget."

Outside the church, the pope personally greeted each of the roughly 200 members of the congregation, then walked over and greeted members of a crowd that had formed on the other side of the boundary separating Vatican from Italian territory.