- (Photo: Reuters/Max Rossi)
The newly installed Bishop of Rome has called upon Christians and non-Christians alike to be "protectors" of the environment, the poor, and their families. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was formally installed as Pope Francis Tuesday morning. He is the 266th pope and the first from Latin America.
According to the Catholic liturgical calendar, the date for which Pope Francis was formally installed was the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As such, Francis focused on Joseph's role as protector for Jesus and Mary.
"How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand," said Pope Francis in his homily.
"How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God's presence and receptive to God's plans, and not simply to his own."
Pope Francis proceeded to call upon the listeners to his homily to be "protectors" as well, stating that being a protector "is not just something involving us Christians alone…"
"It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us," said Francis.
"It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents."
Over a million people gathered in Vatican City for the Mass, held at St. Peter's Square, including over 130 government delegations, more than 30 Christian delegations, and spiritual leaders from Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, and Jainism.
Vice President Joe Biden and an American delegation were present, as was Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the head of the Orthodox Church. His presence marks the first time an ecumenical patriarch has attended the installation mass of a Roman Catholic pope since the Great Schism of 1054 split the Western and Eastern Churches.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and formerly considered a candidate for the position of pope, sent a letter of congratulations to the new pontiff.
"I wish to convey to you the deep affection, prayerful support and sincere pledge of fidelity of the Bishops of the United States of America and the more than 70 million Catholic faithful throughout the 195 dioceses and eparchies across our nation," wrote Dolan.
"The election to the See of Peter of a bishop from the Americas fills us with special happiness as we sense a special bond and closeness with you."
With his inauguration completed, Pope Francis begins his petrine ministry over a church body that has an estimated 1.2 billion members.