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Vatican Prepares For Pope Francis' Inaugural Mass

9:27 PM, Mar 18, 2013   |    comments
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Courtesy: Getty Images

Vatican City -- Preparations for the inaugural mass of Pope Francis continued from morning to evening at the Vatican on Monday, as the city prepared for a huge influx of visitors.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to cram St. Peter's Square and surrounding streets for the Mass to formally install Francis as the new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

The crowd may be the biggest in Rome since more than 1.5 million people came to the city for the beatification of the late Pope John Paul II on May 1, 2011.

The inaugural mass, which is being held on Tuesday, is an event straddling religion and politics that will bring together European royalty, heads of state and world spiritual leaders. The Vatican said six sovereigns, including from Belgium and Monaco, will be among the leaders of more than 130 delegations at the Mass.
One significant attendee will be Bartholomew I, the ecumenical patriarch of Orthodox Christianity, the first time a spiritual leader of world Orthodoxy will attend a papal inaugural Mass since the East-West Schism of 1054.

It will be attended by more than 30 delegations representing other Christian Churches, as well as representatives of the world's Jewish and Islamic communities.

Beneath dark, cloudy skies, workers set out seats in St. Peter's Square on Monday evening, as excited tourists watched the preparations.

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio chose the name Francis after his election on Wednesday in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, who is revered for his radical poverty and humility.

The Franciscan community has been loud in its welcome of Pope Francis.

Roman resident Silvia Ceceri made her way to St. Peter's Square on Sunday for the Pope's first Angelus blessing. She says she enjoyed herself so much, she is getting up extra early to secure a good spot in the square for Tuesday's mass.

Since his election last week, Francis has signaled a sharp change of style from his predecessor, Benedict, and laid out a clear moral path for the 1.2-billion-member Church, which is beset by scandals.The new pope's outgoing nature and sense of humor differs notably from the much more formal Benedict, who last month became the first pope in 600 years to resign.

Francis is seen as having a common touch and the communication skills that Benedict lacked. He has given clear signs already that he will bring a new broom to the crisis-hit papacy, favoring humility and simplicity over pomp and grandeur.

Vatican watchers are curious to see whether the new pontiff retains his simplicity. They are waiting to see what he will wear, which vehicle he chooses for his drive around the square before the service on Tuesday, and above all, to hear him speak.


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