Mercoledì, 19 Settembre 2018

Pope stokes charm offensive at inauguration


Vatican City, March 19 - While the elaborate
ceremony to inaugurate Pope Francis drew an array of the world's
clergy, heads of state and powerful delegations, it was the
moments leading up to his enthronement in St Peter's Square that
the roughly one million people who turned out Tuesday will
likely remember the most.
Cruising through the crowd in his open-air popemobile,
Francis evoked cheers from flag-waving faithful from the four
corners of the earth.
"We can see the new face of the Church in this man," said
Sheeba Sebastian, a nun from Kerala, India.
"We expect great things from him. He relates to the
With a beguiling grin and a visible eagerness to mix with
the people, the Argentine pope's first week on the job has been
described as a charm offensive, from blessing patients at a Rome
hospital two days after his election, to embracing the faithful
outside the Vatican on the morning of his first Angelus, all
with a warmth and nonchalance that some have compared to the
demeanor of the beloved Pope John XXIII.
On Tuesday, as he rode through a square bedecked in flower
arrangements and pontifical regalia, Francis stopped his driver
several times, once to caress and kiss two children held out to
him from the crowd.
Breaking tradition, he also descended from the vehicle to
bless a disabled person, similar to other episodes early in his
pontificate that have made his security escort cringe.
Kristin Mikkelsen and her five-week-old daughter Isabella
looked on with glee as Francis, who succeeds Benedict XVI after
his stunning abdication last month, blessed the faithful, smiled
and seemed to mouth the word 'ciao'.
"This is an indescribable moment. History is unfolding,"
said Mikkelsen, from Nebraska. "We have dragged this little baby
everywhere. I'll be able to tell Isabella about this when she's
older. We also brought her to Benedict's last general audience.
What a blessing to be able to pray for Benedict and now
As a first order of business in his homily, Francis paid
tribute to his 85-year-old predecessor, who cited declining
physical and mental strength when he announced he would
abdicate, the first pontiff to do so voluntarily in 700 years.
Francis pointed out that Tuesday is the retired pope's
saint's day, as his birth name is Joseph Ratzinger.
"It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the
name-day of my venerable predecessor - we are close to him with
our prayers, full of affection and gratitude," Francis said.
Despite his reverence for Benedict, Francis' approachable
style sticks out in stark contrast.
And despite sharing most of the conservative German
pontiff's doctrinal and social views - from gay marriage and
abortion to contraception and clerical celibacy - some
progressive Catholics say they have reason to believe this pope
will be more adept at dealing with the currents of the 21st
"He seems a lot more open and down-to-earth," said Molly
Stemper, a 25-year-old backpacker from Milwaukee. "He might be a
little more liberal. That appeals to me".
With less than a week elapsed since Francis emerged from
the conclave as pope, she admits that it's too early to tell
what will mark his legacy.
In the meantime, Stemper said he's undoubtedly popular.
"My family has run a Catholic goods store in Wisconsin for
over 100 years. We had a lot of Benedict stuff, but within 24
hours of Francis' election people were asking for his pictures,
candles, etc. Merchandise sales really go up with a new pope,"
she said.
"Francis is good for business".

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