Pope opens his ministry
Vatican City (AP): Pope Francis officially began his ministry as the 266th pope on Tuesday in an installation Mass simplified to suit his style, but...
Vatican City (AP): 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 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 symbolising the papacy and a wool stole symbolising his role as shepherd of his 1.2-billion strong flock. He also received vows of obedience from a half-dozen cardinals â€" a potent symbol given his predecessor Benedict XVI is still alive.A 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." Francis, named after the 13th-century friar known for his care of the most disadvantaged, has made clear he wants his pontificate to be focused on the poor, a message that has resonance in a poverty-stricken region that counts 40 per cent of the world's Catholics.