Pope Francis received the ring and pallium symbolising his new papal powers at a grand ceremony in St Peter’s Square on Tuesday in front of world leaders and tens of thousands of pilgrims.
The pallium is a strip of lambswool that represents the pope’s role
as a shepherd and the Fisherman’s Ring is named in honour of the first
pope St Peter, a fisherman by trade.
The Pope swept into St Peter’s Square on Tuesday to greet throngs of
pilgrims before a sumptuous ceremony in which Latin America’s first
pontiff will receive the formal symbols of papal power.
Wearing his papal whites and standing in middle of an open-topped
vehicle, the pope waved, smiled and gave the thumbs-up to the ecstatic
crowds in the sun-drenched square.
The crowds had begun gathering from the early morning for a ceremony
laden with centuries-old rituals and lavish imagery, which will begin
with a first-time tour of the famous Vatican plaza by the Argentine
“With Pope Francis, the Church will be closer to the people and to
the modern world,” said Rodrigo Grajales, a 31-year-old Colombian priest
in the crowd, where people waved flags from around the world and
banners hailing the pope.
The former archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, has
already won hearts in Rome with a disarmingly informal style which will
contrast with Tuesday’s pomp and ceremony.
Bergoglio was the surprise choice at a conclave of cardinals to find a
successor to 85-year-old Benedict XVI, who last month brought a sudden
end to a papacy that had often been overshadowed by scandal, saying he
was too old to carry on.
He was the first pope to resign since the Middle Ages.
The jovial Francis has said he chose his papal name in honour of the
mediaeval Italian saint St Francis of Assisi and has called for a “poor
Church for the poor”, warning the world’s cardinals against pursuing
“Go Francis! We Will Be With You Wherever You Go!” read a sign held up by a group of Brazilian nuns on St Peter’s Square.
Sister Rosa, an elderly Italian nun, said she expected the pope would
be “another St Francis on earth for love, goodness, poverty and
The son of an Italian emigrant railway worker from a working-class
quarter of Buenos Aires has been effusive in a way that is unusual in
the Vatican, kissing pilgrims and doing impromptu walkabouts.
The arrivals have already presented Francis with a first diplomatic
headache in the form of a request from compatriot President Cristina
Kirchner of Argentina to mediate in a row with Britain over sovereignty
of the Falkland Islands.
Francis is still haunted by criticism at home for failing to speak
out against the excesses of Argentina’s military rule during the
dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s.
The Chinese government has also said it will not be sending any
representatives after Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou said he was
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe also flew in, sidestepping an EU
travel ban over human rights abuses that does not apply to the Vatican.
Latin America will be heavily represented at the inauguration of the
first non-European pope in nearly 1,300 years, with the presidents of
Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico and Paraguay all in
Leaders of different Christian denominations were also in attendance,
including Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
Vatican radio said it was the first time a patriarch of
Constantinople attended an inauguration since 1054 when the eastern and
western halfs of Christendom split.
The Vatican was in security lockdown for the event, with 3,000
officers deployed including sharpshooters on the rooftops and bomb
Three Red Cross tents could be seen on the square and giant screens
have been placed all down Via della Conciliazione — the main avenue
leading to St Peter’s.
After his tour of St Peter’s Square, Francis will pray at the tomb of
St Peter, who is considered the first pontiff in Catholic tradition.
Francis will then receive from his cardinals the pallium — a
lambswool strip of cloth that symbolises the pope’s role as a shepherd —
and the “Fisherman’s Ring”, a personalised signet ring representing his
The ring is named in honour of St Peter, a fisherman by trade.
The mass proper is expected to include a homily by Francis, who has
often strayed from prepared texts with off-the-cuff jokes, anecdotes and
passionate exhortations for spiritual renewal.
Church leaders have urged Francis to move quickly to reform the
intrigue-filled Roman Curia, the central administration of the Roman
Catholic Church, and his appointments in the coming weeks will be
Francis has indicated he will press for a friendlier faith that is
closer to ordinary people and for social justice, although the moderate
conservative is unlikely to change major tenets of Catholic doctrine.
Vatican experts say he has also signalled he will pursue a more
inclusive “collegial” style of leadership together with the cardinals
The Church is being challenged on many levels around the world —
growing secularism in the West, the rise of radical Islam and the
ongoing scandal of abuses of children by priests that were hushed up for
Vast crowds meanwhile gathered on the other side of the Atlantic
outside the Buenos Aires cathedral to dance and sing as they watched the
Catholic high school students chanted slogans praising Francis, while
seminarians and nuns waved Vatican flags and signs supporting the new
“This pope has awakened deep emotions within me, not only because
he’s from Argentina, but because of his warmth as a person,” Celia
Farias, 33, told AFP.
“As a Catholic, it has renewed my faith.”