At Inaugural, Francis Calls for Protection of Planet, Poor

New pope tours St. Peter's Square in open-top Jeep
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 19, 2013 4:31 AM CDT
Updated Mar 19, 2013 7:58 AM CDT

Pope Francis officially kicked off his papacy today with a call to protect the planet and its poor, in a "low-key" yet dignitary-stuffed inaugural Mass that installed him as the Catholic Church's 266th pontiff. “Let us never forget that authentic power is service and that the pope, too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross," he told the crowd in St. Peter's Square. His inauguration was a simpler—and shorter—affair than previous ones, Reuters reports. In a sign of the humble and open style the Argentine is expected to bring to the papacy, he shunned the bullet-proof popemobile to tour the square in an open-topped Jeep, emerging to walk among the crowd, shaking hands and kissing babies. As the service began, he received the fisherman's ring that symbolizes the papacy and the white woolen vestment that symbolizes his role as a shepherd for the faithful, the New York Times reports.

The square holds around 100,000 people but Italian authorities were predicting the crowd in the area would top 1 million, CNN reports. The service installing Francis was attended by 132 official delegations and religious leaders from around the world, including six sovereign rulers, 31 heads of state, three princes, and 11 heads of government, mostly from Latin America, the AP reports. The pope will meet the government delegations in St. Peter's Basilica following today's service and meet with religious delegations from around the world tomorrow before taking a day off. Reuters adds that Francis surprised his native Argentina with a phone call home. (More Pope Francis stories.)

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