At Inaugural, Francis Calls for Protection of Planet, Poor
New pope tours St. Peter's Square in open-top Jeep
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 19, 2013 4:31 AM CDT
Updated Mar 19, 2013 7:58 AM CDT
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(Newser) – Pope Francis officially kicked off his papacy today with a call to protect the planet and its poor, in a "low-key" yet dignitary-stuffed inaugural Mass that installed him as the Catholic Church's 266th pontiff. “Let us never forget that authentic power is service and that the pope, too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross," he told the crowd in St. Peter's Square. His inauguration was a simpler—and shorter—affair than previous ones, Reuters reports. In a sign of the humble and open style the Argentine is expected to bring to the papacy, he shunned the bullet-proof popemobile to tour the square in an open-topped Jeep, emerging to walk among the crowd, shaking hands and kissing babies. As the service began, he received the fisherman's ring that symbolizes the papacy and the white woolen vestment that symbolizes his role as a shepherd for the faithful, the New York Times reports.

The square holds around 100,000 people but Italian authorities were predicting the crowd in the area would top 1 million, CNN reports. The service installing Francis was attended by 132 official delegations and religious leaders from around the world, including six sovereign rulers, 31 heads of state, three princes, and 11 heads of government, mostly from Latin America, the AP reports. The pope will meet the government delegations in St. Peter's Basilica following today's service and meet with religious delegations from around the world tomorrow before taking a day off. Reuters adds that Francis surprised his native Argentina with a phone call home.

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Showing 3 of 64 comments
Mar 19, 2013 1:38 PM CDT
The fact that Pope Francis does seem to be filling the shoes of his saintly namesake is quite moving.It is about loving, humble service and like Saint Francis of Asissi and Our Lord he is sending a clear and strong signal that he comes not to be served, but to serve. Viva Papa Francesco
Mar 19, 2013 10:22 AM CDT
I would have thought that he'd want to clean up his Church before going after such lofty goals. Ridding the Church of it's rapist priests and all those who sheltered and protected them should have been number one on his list. Why can't I shake the notion that this guy is just gonna be a glad-handing business-as-usual Pope?
Mar 19, 2013 10:08 AM CDT
Good first step.