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Pope Francis Officially Installed as Bishop of Rome With Mass and Ceremony

March 19, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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GWEN IFILL: Pope Francis formally took office today with a special mass and ceremonies.

We begin with a report from James Mates of Independent Television News in Rome.

JAMES MATES, Independent Television News: He is promising a simpler, humbler papacy. And it was amongst the ordinary pilgrims to St. Peter’s that Pope Francis started his day.

It is common now for a pope to kiss babies, less so for him to get out of the popemobile and walk over to give a blessing to a disabled worshiper. The inauguration mass at St. Peter’s Square was shorter and less ornate than in the past, but it could not be described as either simple or understated.

Heads of state, all their representatives occupied the front rows, but this service was squarely aimed at the 150,000 pilgrims who had stood since early morning to see the new leader of their church, among them, of course, many from Argentina, who watched as for the first time ever the symbol of the papacy, the fisherman’s ring, was placed on the finger of a man from Latin America.

His homily was an instruction to get back to core principles. Embrace, he said, the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important.

For almost a week now, his introduction to the papacy has been a series of services, meetings and now this magnificent inauguration. But after today, the work proper begins and the to-do list is considerable. In his first week, Francis has been spectacularly successful in defining the style of his papacy. Winning approval for its substance will take a lot longer.