[CNN] The new pope’s first day: Mass with the cardinals
By Laura Smith-Spark. Ed Payne and Richard Allen Greene, CNN
March 14, 2013 — Updated 0948 GMT (1748 HKT)
- NEW: Group representing priest abuse victims requests meeting with Francis
- Francis opens his first day as pope with prayers at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major
- Francis will be formally installed as pope at a Mass on Tuesday
- President Obama says selection speaks to emerging role of Latin America
Vatican City (CNN) — A man of many firsts, Pope Francis will spend part of his first full day celebrating Mass with the cardinals who elected him.
When Jorge Bergoglio stepped onto the balcony at the Vatican on Wednesday evening to reveal himself as the new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, he made history as the first non-European pope of the modern era, the first from Latin America, the first Jesuit and the first to assume the name Francis.
Thursday will be low-key.
Francis began the day by praying at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome. The Mass with the cardinals will take place at the Sistine Chapel.
His next public appearance will likely be Sunday.
The new pontiff will “very probably” say Mass at St. Peter’s and then deliver the traditional Angelus blessing, said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi.
But it won’t be until Tuesday that Francis will be formally installed as pope.
That’s by design. The day coincides with the Feast of St. Joseph, the patron saint of Italy.
As pope, Francis takes the helm of a Catholic Church that has been rocked in recent years by sex abuse by priests, and claims of corruption and infighting among the church hierarchy.
Reflecting the urgency of those concerns, a group representing the alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests has written an open letter to Pope Francis requesting a meeting.
“Your predecessor met only a few times with a few carefully chosen victims in tightly choreographed settings, as he visited nations where this crisis had reached a fever pitch,” the letter from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests states.
“We write today seeking a different kind of meeting — one in which our respective organizations — yours, huge and struggling, and ours, small and struggling — can begin to work together to safeguard children across the globe.”
The 76-year-old, who served as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, is the first pope to take the name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, revered among Catholics for his work with the poor.
The pontiff is considered a straight shooter who calls things as he sees them, and a follower of the church’s most social conservative wing.
As a cardinal, he clashed with the government of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner over his opposition to gay marriage and free distribution of contraceptives.
He was runner-up in the 2005 papal conclave, behind then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
The new pope brings together the first and the developing worlds.
Latin America is home to 480 million Catholics.
By choosing him, the cardinals sent a strong message about where the future of the church may lie.
Filipino priest and CNN iReporter Joel Camaya was among the tens of thousands who witnessed history Wednesday night in St. Peter’s Square, as Francis emerged on the balcony.
“The multitude, from all parts of the world, were ecstatic to be in the square for this beautiful occasion,” he said. “This was one event that left me teary-eyed and thanking God for making me a Catholic.”
A Jesuit pope
Born in Buenos Aires to an Italian immigrant father, Francis is known for his simplicity.
He chose to live in an apartment rather than the archbishop’s palace, passed on a chauffeured limousine, took the bus to work and cooked his own meals.
He was ordained by the Jesuits in 1969 and became co-archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1997, sole archbishop of that city one year later.
He was made a cardinal in 2001 and served as president of the Argentine bishops conference from 2005-11.
As a Jesuit, Francis is a member of the Society of Jesus, one of the biggest and most important orders in the church.
Jesuits are recognized for their exceptional educational institutions and focus on social justice.
“Jesuits are characterized by their service to the Church … but trying to avoid positions of power,” said Lombardi, who is also a Jesuit. “I am absolutely convinced that we have a pope who wants to serve.
“His election was the election of a rejection of power.”
‘Stunning choice’ of name
His selection of the name of Pope Francis is “the most stunning” choice and “precedent shattering,” CNN Vatican analyst John Allen said. “The new pope is sending a signal that this will not be business as usual.”
The name symbolizes “poverty, humility, simplicity and rebuilding the Catholic Church,” Allen said.
Miguel Diaz, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, agreed, calling the new pontiff’s choice of names “very significant.”
“Francis of Assisi is the saint who opted for the little ones in God’s kingdom,” he said. “This man represents a change and could potentially be a great gift for leadership, servant leadership, for all of us within the church and society.”
It is something the Catholic Church says it desperately needs.
“If you look back over the past years — the crisis of abuse, the scandals here at the Vatican, financial mismanagement, questions about the leaks and everything — when you step back from it all, every crisis we faced ultimately is a crisis of holiness that we’ve missed the calling,” said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, the Vatican’s deputy spokesman.
“We’ve moved far away from what we’re supposed to be.”
Word of the election of Pope Francis, who was not considered a front-runner among analysts, quickly spread around the globe, with everyone from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to U.S. President Barack Obama offering congratulations.
“As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day,” Obama said.
Ban said the new pope shares common goals with the United Nations, from the promotion of peace to social justice.
“We also share the conviction that we can only resolve the interconnected challenges of today’s world through dialogue,” he said.
Nowhere was the reaction to his selection as pope more heartfeltthan in Latin America.
“I am truly still very surprised … not just that a Latino pope came out, but that he is an Argentinian from Buenos Aires,” the Rev. Eduardo Mangiarotti, an Argentine priest, told CNN en Español.
It’s a “huge event” not only for the church in Latin America but worldwide, he said.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, greeted the selection with “extraordinary joy.”
“I have been hoping that we would move into the Southern Hemisphere and especially I think many of us had hoped … we would have a pope who would come from Latin America,” he said.
“One-half of the Catholics in the world are from Latin America, so this is a way the cardinals have very graciously acknowledged that.”
CNN’s Richard Allen Greene and Hada Messia reported from Vatican City, Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London and Chelsea J. Carter and Ed Payne wrote and reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Sarah Brown, Dana Ford, Catherine E. Shoichet, Mariano Castillo and Greg Botelho contributed to this report.