Pope Francis greets the crowd before celebrating his inaugural Mass in St. Peter's Square.


Pope Francis greets the crowd before celebrating his inaugural Mass in St. Peter's Square.

March 25, 2013

Although attempts were made to simplify the ceremony, Pope Francis officially inaugurated his ministry as pope and bishop of Rome in a liturgy filled with biblical symbolism and signs of the universality of his mission.

But before the solemn rites began March 19, Pope Francis took his first spin in the popemobile, blessing the tens of thousands of people who arrived in St. Peter's Square as early as 4 a.m. to pray with him.

He waved and, at one point, gave a thumbs-up to the faithful. He also kissed three babies held up to him and later climbed out of the popemobile to kiss a severely disabled man.

Before entering St. Peter's Square, he addressed by satellite thousands of his fellow Argentinians gathered in Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, where he had been archbishop before his election as pope.

He thanked the people for their prayers and told them: "I have a favour to ask. I want to ask that we all walk together, caring for one another . . . caring for life. Care for the family, care for nature, care for children, care for the aged.

"Let there be no hatred, no fighting, put aside envy and don't gossip about anyone."

As the Mass began, tens of thousands of pilgrims, faithful and tourists continued to arrive, filling St. Peter's Square. By the time of Communion, the Vatican said there were between 150,000 and 200,000 people present.

In his homily, Pope Francis asked for prayers that he would be able to protect the Church like St. Joseph protected Mary and Jesus.

Although he officially became pope the minute he accepted his election in the Sistine Chapel March 13, Pope Francis received important symbols of his office just before the inauguration Mass - the Book of the Gospels, the ring of the fisherman, St. Peter, and the pallium, a woolen band worn around the shoulders to evoke a shepherd carrying a sheep.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who had announced Pope Francis' election to the world six days earlier, placed the pallium, which had been worn by Pope Benedict XVI, around the new pope's neck. The retired pope did not attend the Mass.

"The Good Shepherd charged Peter to feed his lambs and his sheep; today you succeed him as the bishop of this Church to which he and the Apostle Paul were fathers in faith," Tauran said.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, presented Pope Francis with the fisherman's ring, a gold-plated silver band featuring St. Peter holding keys.


For the first time since the Great Schism of 1054 split the main Christian community into East and West, the ecumenical patriarch, first among equals of the Eastern Orthodox, attended the installation Mass. Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople sat in a place of honour near the papal altar.

Catholicos Karekin II of Etchmiadzin, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, also attended the Mass along with delegations from 12 other Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, 10 Anglican and Protestant communities and three international Christian organizations, including the World Council of Churches.

After the Lord's prayer, Pope Francis exchanged a sign of peace with Patriarch Bartholomew and with Catholicos Karekin.

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Jewish community of Rome and several international Jewish organizations sent representatives to the ceremony, as did Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain and Hindu communities and organizations.

Also present were representatives of 132 governments, led by the presidents of Italy and Argentina, the reigning royals of six countries and 31 heads of state. Gov. Gen. David Lloyd Johnston led the Canadian delegation.