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Pope Francis in plea for poor as inauguration Mass held

By The Citizen
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Pope Francis has inaugurated his papacy at a Mass in Rome, calling on global leaders and all the people of the world to defend the poor and the weak.

Up to 200,000 people attended the Mass in St Peter’s Square.

His homily focused on protection – of the environment, children, the elderly and those in need, who he said were “often the last we think about”.

Francis was elected by a conclave of cardinals last week to take over from Benedict XVI.

Benedict became the first pontiff in 600 years to abdicate last month. Citing his age, 85, he said he could no longer continue in the post.

Pope Francis, formerly Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio and now the first pontiff from the Americas, has since his election called for a “Church for the poor” and has struck an informal and spontaneous tone.

He said: “It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world… 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.”

Francis called on “all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life” to be protectors of creation.

“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,” Francis said.

Without care for the environment and fellow humans, “the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened”, he said.

“Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world.”

Francis said the pope himself must be inspired by the lowly – “the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those who Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, those in prison”.