Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pope inaugurates his reign with Mass attended by Patriarch Bartholomew

Pope Francis inaugurated his papacy with a Mass in front of hundreds of thousands of people including foreign leaders in St. Peter's Square on Tuesday, a crowd which also included İstanbul-based Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ.

Pope Francis embraces Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during his installation Mass. (Photo: AA)

It was the first time the spiritual head of Orthodox Christians attended a pope's inaugural Mass since the schism between Western and Eastern Christianity in 1054.

Also attending for the first time was the chief rabbi of Rome. His presence, along with Bartholomew's, underscores the broad hopes for ecumenical and interfaith dialogue in this new papacy given Francis's own work for such improved relations and his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi.

In a gesture to Christians in the East, the pope prayed with Eastern Rite Catholic patriarchs and archbishops before the tomb of St. Peter at the start of the Mass and the Gospel was chanted in Greek rather than the traditional Latin.

Bartholomew has made several previous visits to the Vatican, including attending the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005. Bartholomew also hosted Pope Benedict during a 2006 visit to İstanbul, the sprawling city formerly called Constantinople and the ancient spiritual center of the Orthodox churches.

The new pope is familiar with Orthodox traditions from 14 years of heading the Argentine church's commission on Eastern Rite Christians, who are within the Catholic fold but follow Orthodox religious customs, and include some married clergy in lower ranks.

Six sovereigns including Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, US Vice President Joe Biden, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bozdağ and other leaders as well as heads of many other faiths were also among the 130 delegations on the steps of the famous basilica on Tuesday.

Addressing an estimated 200,000 people and many foreign leaders gathered under bright sunshine in St. Peter's Square, the Argentine pope underlined his constant message since he was elected by a secret conclave of cardinals last Wednesday - that the Church's mission was to defend the poor and disadvantaged.

In line with this message, the Mass on the steps of the giant St. Peter's Basilica was simpler than the baroque splendor of his predecessor Benedict's inauguration in 2005.

The Church's mission "means respecting each of God's creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about", he said in the homily.

Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, took his name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, a symbol of poverty, simplicity, charity and love of nature.

He said that whenever human beings failed to care for the environment and each other, "The way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically in every period of history there are 'Herods' who plot death, wreak havoc and mar the countenance of men and women."

In his homily, the new pope called for world leaders to be "protectors of one another and of the environment... 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."

Before the Mass, the pope toured St. Peter's Square, which was crammed with people waving flags, in an open white jeep, abandoning the bullet-proof popemobile often used by Benedict.

He stopped frequently to greet those in the sprawling square, kissing babies and getting out at one point to bless a disabled person.

For the mass he wore plain white vestments, trimmed with gold and brown, and black shoes, in contrast to the luxurious red loafers that attracted attention under Benedict.

The ceremony, conducted from an altar on the steps of the huge basilica, was shortened to two hours after a three-hour service in 2005 when Benedict began his papacy.

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 and who said who said he would be inspired by the lowly.

"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."

Source: Today's Zaman

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