NOW: Thousands attend Pope Francis' installation mass
Pope Francis officially began his ministry as the 266th pope on Tuesday in an installation Mass simplified to suit his style, but still grand enough to draw princes, presidents, rabbis, muftis and thousands of ordinary people to St. Peter's Square to
witness the inauguration of the first pope from the New World.
Francis thrilled the crowd at the start of the Mass by taking a long round-about through the sun-drenched piazza and getting out of his jeep to bless a disabled man. It was a gesture from a man whose short papacy is becoming defined by such spontaneous forays into the crowd and concern for the disadvantaged.
The blue and white flags from Francis' native Argentina fluttered above the crowd, which Italian media estimated could reach 1 million but appeared to be significantly fewer. Civil protection crews closed the main streets leading to the square to traffic and set up barricades for nearly a mile (two kilometres) along the route to try to control the masses and allow official delegations through.
Before the Mass began, Francis received the fisherman's ring symbolizing the papacy and a wool stole symbolizing his role as shepherd of his 1.2-billion strong flock. He also received vows of obedience from a half-dozen cardinals; a potent symbol given his predecessor Benedict XVI is still alive.
A cardinal intoned the rite of inauguration, saying: ``The Good Shepherd charged Peter to feed his lambs and his sheep; today you succeed him as the bishop of this church.''
Among the VIPs is the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Bartholomew I, who will become the first patriarch from the Istanbul-based church to attend a papal investiture since the two branches of Christianity split nearly 1,000 years ago. His presence underscores the broad hopes for ecumenical and interfaith
dialogue in this new papacy.
It is Francis' history of living with the poor and working for them while archbishop of Buenos Aires that seems to have resonated with ordinary Catholics who say they are hopeful that Francis can inspire a new generation of faithful who have fallen away from the church.
During Tuesday's Mass, Francis will receive the woollen pallium, or stole symbolizing his role as shepherd of his flock, and also the simple gold-plated silver fisherman's ring that is a symbol of the papacy.
A wax cast of the ring was first presented to Pope Paul VI, who presided over the second half of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that revolutionized the church. Paul never wore it but the cast was subsequently made into the ring that Francis chose among several other more ornate ones.
Francis will receive each of the government delegations in St. Peter's Basilica after the Mass. Representing Canada is Governor General David Johnston and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
The pope then holds an audience with the visiting Christian delegations on Wednesday. He has a break from activity on Thursday; a gracious nod perhaps to the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is being installed that day
(The Associated Press)