Pope Francis is reputed for his distaste of pomp, flamboyant rhetoric and the general theatre favoured by his more traditional predecessor. Though he has been appointed and elected to several high-ranking positions within the Catholic Church, as a Jesuit he views himself more as a humble servant than an authority figure.
In his first hours as Pope Francis, leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, he eschewed the trappings that would typically follow a papal election, opting for side doors and asking for a blessing before first offering one himself.
Just one of the guys
The papal car had been arranged but Pope Francis, described by U.S. President Barack Obama as “a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us,” wanted none of it. After wishing the world a casual “good night” on Wednesday, the Pope, the son of a railway worker, opted for the minibus that had served him well enough when he was but a cardinal just hours before. Clad in their red hats, his colleagues waited idly at their church residence to greet the man they had just elected. “As the last bus pulled up, guess who hops off? Pope Francis,” New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan said at a media briefing in Rome. “I guess he told the driver, ‘That’s okay. I’ll just go with the guys.’” At the festive dinner that night, Pope Francis thanked his brethren, saying, “May God forgive you.”
Not a dozen hours had passed since the white smoke billowed from the chimney, and Pope Francis was already bound for his first outing as pontiff. As promised in his first papal appearance, when he told hundreds of thousands gathered at St. Peter’s Square he would “pray to the Virgin for the safekeeping of all of Rome,” Pope Francis left the Vatican at 8:05 a.m. in one of the “Gendarmerie’s simple service cars” for Rome’s oldest and largest church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, according to the Vatican. He entered through one of the basilica’s side doors, laid a bouquet of flowers at the altar, prayed silently for 10 minutes and then went to the Sistine Chapel, where the founder of the Jesuit church celebrated his first mass some four centuries ago.
No, no, I insist
After greeting children at a school near the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis returned to the Domus Internationalis, the hotel where he had stayed with his cardinal colleagues the night before, to retrieve his belongings and pay his bill in full. The Vatican would not reveal the sum that was settled, but a priest who lives in the same residence said the Pope’s payment is circuitous: “I don’t think he needs to worry about the bill. This house is part of the church and it’s his church now.”
Liturgical celebration Numero Uno
The 115 cardinals who anointed the modest, metro-riding Argentine met at 5 p.m. local time for the “For the Church” mass, where Pope Francis gave an off-the-cuff homily in Italian on the need to walk with God, build up the church and confess. At the outset of the service, Pope Francis spoke with Monsignor Guido Marini, the Vatican’s master of liturgical ceremonies, who deployed a more opulent style under Benedict. Vatican officials confirmed Monsignor Marini was perturbed by Pope Francis’s shirking of the traditional red cape when he took to the loggia on Wednesday night and, in a rare act, asked the masses to bless him before he responded in kind.
On the papal agenda
Though Pope Francis is regarded as a man of the people, having served the church not from within Vatican walls but rather governing from the ground in his native Argentina, he will soon make his home at one of the world’s most grandiose sites: The Vatican apartments, a spokesperson said, are nearly ready for him. In the meantime, Pope Francis has a full schedule. According to the Vatican, he will meet Friday with the full College of Cardinals for a “familial gathering.” He will hold a press conference the next morning and, on Sunday at noon, he will deliver his first prayer from the papal balcony. On Tuesday, he will be inaugurated.
After Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named Pope on Wednesday evening, those following @JMBergoglio offered their congratulations via Twitter, NBC News reported. Unbeknownst to those followers, that account was a fake that gleaned some 132,000 followers by the time the social networking site suspended it Wednesday evening. Had followers paid heed, they may have been tipped off by a tweet that said, “If I’m the new pope, children will love me more than Santa Claus.”
All the world’s eyes on him
From Moscow to Beijing to Damascus, government officials and Muslim groups proclaimed their hopes for friendly relations with the Vatican under Pope Francis. The Russian Orthodox Church said it “counts on relations between the Orthodox and Catholic churches developing in a positive way,” the churches having been divided for centuries. Several Muslim organizations said they hoped for a better rapport after tensions steeped under Benedict. In a letter of congratulations, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, which represents 57 countries, said it hoped that the “relationship between Islam and Christianity will regain its cordiality and sincere friendship.”
When darkness fell, the work began
Overnight, street vendors scrambled to craft Pope Francis souvenirs. From prayer cards to framed photos and rosaries in containers donning his likeness, St. Peter’s Square boasted fresh merchandise on Thursday morning. For prospective buyers in far-flung places, www.CathlolicPrayerCards.org is offering prayer cards, bookmarks and magnets that “will be printed in limited edition small batches as collector’s series items.” The magnet, originally priced at $1.99, is already on sale for $1.49.
With reports from Bloomberg, Reuters, the Associated Press, and The New York Times