Pope Francis begins his ministry

Vatican City, Mar 19, 2013 - Pope Francis formally began his ministry as bishop of Rome and as pope by pledging to protect the Catholic Church, the dignity of each person and the beauty of creation, just like St. Joseph protected Mary and Jesus. "To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love is to open up a horizon of hope," he told between 150,000 and 200,000 people gathered under sunny skies in St. Peter's Square and the nearby streets. With representatives of other Christian churches and communities, delegations from 132 countries, Jewish and Muslim leaders as well as Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and Jains present, Pope Francis preached the Gospel, but insisted the values it espouses are essentially human, "involving everyone." While the rites and rituals of the inauguration of his ministry as pope took place immediately before the Mass, the liturgy itself was a celebration of the feast of St. Joseph, patron of the universal church and "also the name day of my venerable predecessor," Pope Benedict XVI, the former Joseph Ratzinger. The retired pope was not present at the liturgy, but the crowds applauded enthusiastically when Pope Francis said, "We are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude."

-CNS

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