” Authentic power is service ” and “the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross,” a “humble, real, rich faith, “a service that is “to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves”: ” this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out. “
Mass for the beginning of the pontificate is traditionally the occasion for the new Pope to outline, in a way the focal points of his pontificate.
Francis speaks of “service” and “protection” and “tenderness” and “humility” and “constant presence” and “respect for all of God’s creatures and the environment in which we live” and, in the end, he asks ” Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world!. “
There are kings and queens, heads of state and government to listen to the Pope’s request: 132 delegations. From pretty much all over the world. With the exception of China, whose old and new leaders who only know how to repeat the stale phrases about papal”interference” in matters of religion.
There are also 33 delegations from other Christian churches and confessions: 14 from the Eastern Churches, 10 from the Western, 3 international. There was also – and for the first time for the beginning of a pontificate – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Armenian Catholicos Karekin II, Metropolitan Hilarion for the Moscow Patriarchate, the secretary of the World Council of Churches Olav Fykse Tveit. There was a significant Jewish delegation, composed of 16 people, both from the Roman and Jerusalem Chief Rabbinate. There are representatives of Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jainists.
And there is a massive presence of the “people of God”. An immense crowd since early morning found its way to St. Peter’s Square. Maybe 200 thousand people, among whom the Pope toured in his open topped popemobile. He spent almost half an hour greeting pilgrims in the midst of flags and banners from all over the world, including one from the San Lorenzo football Club, a team of which he is notoriously a fan. Several times the jeep stops to let him kiss a child, once the Pope climbed down from the jeep to kiss a young ill pilgrim. The bells of the church ringing loudly. The sun was shining.
Images were beamed from Buenos Aires, where a large crowd gathered in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, which Francis surprised overnight, with a greeting by phone.
The ceremony of the “beginning of the Petrine ministry” begins inside the basilica, at the tomb of Peter, where the ring “fisherman” and the pallium are placed. The same pallium used by Benedict XVI, and today, the new Pope reminds us, is his predecessor’s name day, expressing his closeness “with prayer, full of affection and gratitude.”
On the feast day of St. Joseph, the Pope’s homily begins with a reflection on the man who had the task of “protecting”.
” The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus”. ” 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. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.”.
” 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. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!”
” The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. 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. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. 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. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!”.
” Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.”.
” Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!”.
” Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. 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 must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!”.
” In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. 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; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God”.
“To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!
I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me!”.