Pope Francis celebrates first Vatican Sunday Mass
POPE Francis mingled with the public yesterday as he celebrated his first Sunday Mass at the Vatican’s small and simple parish church.
In only five days since his election, Pope Francis’ straightforward, spontaneous style has become a hallmark of his papacy.
Continuing in that vein yesterday, the Pope shook hands with his flock and kissed babies before celebrating mass in the modest St Anna’s church.
After the service, Francis put his security detail to the test as he headed into the street just outside St Anna’s Gate to meet the faithful.
The new pontiff also delivered off-the-cuff remarks about God’s power to forgive instead of reading a written speech for the first Sunday studio-window appearance of his papacy.
He spoke only in Italian – beginning with “buon giorno” (Good day) and ending with “buon pranzo” (Have a good lunch) – instead of using several languages as his last few predecessors had done.
His comments and humour delighted a crowd of more than 150,000 in St Peter’s Square, drawing cheers and laughter.
Earlier yesterday, he made an impromptu appearance before the public from a side gate of the Vatican, startling passers-by and prompting cheers, before delivering a six-minute homily – brief by Church standards – at the Vatican’s tiny parish church.
The Pope stepped up to the crowd, grasping outstretched hands. The atmosphere was so casual that several people even gripped him on the shoulder.
The pontiff then ducked back inside the Vatican’s boundaries to head upstairs for the window appearance from the papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace. The studio window was opened for the first time since Francis’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, gave his last window blessing on 24 February.
Four days later, Benedict went into retirement, the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years.
Francis, the first Pope from Latin America, has been staying in a Vatican hotel until the papal apartment in the palace is ready.
Hundreds of extra traffic police were deployed yesterday morning to control crowds and vehicles, for it was also the day of Rome’s annual marathon. Buses were rerouted and many streets closed off in an attempt to channel the curious and faithful up the main boulevard from the Tiber to St Peter’s Square.
Giant video screens were set up so the huge crowd could get a close-up look at Pope Francis and dozens of medical teams were on hand for any emergencies.
After the Mass, the Pope stepped out jauntily from St Anna’s Church and waved to a crowd of hundreds kept behind barriers across the street, and then greeted the Vatican parishioners one by one.
One young man patted the Pope on the back – an indication of the informality that has been evident from the first moment of his papacy.
As he patted one little boy on the head, the Pope asked: “Are you a good boy?” The child nodded. “Are you sure?” the Pope quipped.
In his homily, Pope Francis said the core message of God is “that of mercy”. He said God has an unfathomable capacity to pardon and noted that people are often harder on each other than God is toward sinners.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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