Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

World hails Pope Francis

Pope Francis attends his Inauguration Mass in St Peter's Square
Pope Francis attends his Inauguration Mass in St Peter's Square
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 19: President of Argentina Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner attends the Inauguration Mass of Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square for his Inauguration Mass on March 19, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. The inauguration of Pope Francis is being held in front of an expected crowd of up to one million pilgrims and faithful who have crowded into St Peter's Square and the surrounding streets to see the former Cardinal of Buenos Aires officially take up his position. Pope Francis' inauguration takes place in front his cardinals, spiritual leaders as well as heads of states from around the world and he will now lead an estimated 1.3 billion Catholics. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 19: Pope Francis greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the Inauguration Mass on March 19, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. The mass was held in front of an estimated crowd of up to one million pilgrims and faithful who have filled the square and the surrounding streets to see the former Cardinal of Buenos Aires officially take up his role as pontiff. Pope Francis' inauguration took place in front of Cardinals and spiritual leaders as well as heads of state from around the world. (Photo by Guido Bergmann - Bundesregierung Pool via Getty Images)

Heads of State, royalty and religious leaders from around the world descended on Rome to celebrate the official inauguration of Pope Francis.

The 266th pontiff has officially begun his ministry as leader of the world's 1.2bn Catholics after a ceremony which began with a hint of informality and fun.

Speaking at an outdoor Mass to mark his inauguration, he called on world leaders to respect the environment and protect the weak.

Pope Francis also personally sent his best wishes to the people of Ireland and asked them for their prayers.

In his sermon to 200,000 gathered in St Peter's Square, the Pope struck a serious note by speaking of the importance of protecting the "beauty of the created world" and humanity, especially children, the poor and those in need – calling on those in "positions of responsibility" to protect creation.

"Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened," he said. "Tragically, in every period of history there are 'Herods' who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.

"Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill – let us be 'protectors' of creation, protectors of God's plan in nature."

The event was attended by VIP guests from all over the world .

The Queen was represented by the Duke of Gloucester. Prince Albert and his wife Charlene represented Monaco.

After his formal inauguration, the Pope met with Irish President Michael D Higgins.

During the brief encounter inside St Peter's Basilica, the pontiff asked Mr Higgins to pass on his greetings to the Irish people.

"Best wishes to the people of Ireland," he said.

"And I ask them for their prayers."

Earlier, a relaxed Francis thrilled the crowd by getting out of his vehicle to bless a disabled man.

He shouted "ciao!" to wellwishers and stopped to kiss babies.

In a break with tradition, he walked through the crowds, a signal of his more relaxed style.

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