Pope delivers first public blessing

Breaking with tradition, Pope Francis delivered off-the-cuff remarks about God’s power to forgive instead of reading from a written speech for the first Sunday window appearance of his papacy.

He also spoke only in Italian — beginning with ‘buon giorno’ (Good day) and ending with ‘buon pranzo’ (Have a good lunch) — instead of greeting the faithful in several languages as his last few predecessors had done.

Window appearance: Pope Francis greeted by a faithful upon arrival for mass at Santa Anna church at the Vatican. The Pope grabbed an opportunity to shake hands with well-wishers, plunging into the crowds as security men stood nervously by. During his first blessing, he broke tradition by not reading from a written speech and spoke about forgiveness in front of thousands who had gathered at St Peter’s Square. Pics/AFP

His comments and humour delighted a crowd of more than 150,000 in St Peter’s Square, drawing cheers and laughter. In just five days, Francis’ straightforward, spontaneous style has become the immediate hallmark of his papacy.

Earlier in the day, he made an impromptu appearance before the public from a side gate of the Vatican, startling passers-by and prompting cheers, before delivering a six minute homily — brief by church standards. Before he entered St Anna’s church to celebrate Mass, he heartily shook hands with parishioners and kissed babies.

After the Mass, the Pope stepped out jauntily from St Anna’s Church and waved to a crowd of hundreds kept behind barriers across the street, and then greeted the Vatican parishioners one by one. One young man patted the Pope on the back — an indication of the informality that has been evident from the first moment of his papacy.

“Francesco! Francesco!” children shouted his name in Italian from the street. In his homily, Pope Francis said the core message of God is ‘that of mercy.’ He said God has an unfathomable capacity to pardon and noted that people are often harder on each other than God is toward sinners.

The Pope also met with journalists and endeared himself to them with his casual attitude. He also explained why he had chosen to name himself after St Francis of Assisi, the saint who devoted his life to peace and the poor.

In the conclave, the Argentinian said, when the votes were being counted and things seemed to be becoming — in his own words ‘a bit dangerous’ — the cardinal sitting next to him, an old friend from Brazil, embraced him and said: “Don’t forget the poor.”

The Pope added that the reminder had made him think of St Francis — a man ‘who wanted a poor church”. “Ah, how I would like a church,” he said, “that is poor and is for the poor.”  

Pope’s first Tweet: Pray for me
Pope Francis issued his first tweet on Sunday shortly after performing his first Angelus prayer, with a consistent message: “Pray for me.” “Dear friends, I thank you from my heart and ask you to continue to pray for me,” the Argentine Pope tweeted from the @Pontifex account.

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