New Pope Francis slips out of Vatican for morning prayer visit

Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina 's cape blows in the wind as he leaves the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome. Credit: Reuters
Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina ‘s cape blows in the wind as he leaves the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome.
Credit: Reuters

Pope Francis, barely 12 hours after his election, quietly left the Vatican early on Thursday to pray for guidance as he looks to usher a Roman Catholic Church mired in intrigue and scandal into a new age of simplicity and humility.

Francis, the Argentinian cardinal who has become the first pope born outside Europe in 1,300 years, went to Rome’s 5th-century Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore; there he prayed before a famed icon of Mary, the mother of Jesus, which is known as the Salus Populi Romani, or Protectress of the Roman People.

“He spoke to us cordially, like a father,” said Father Ludovico Melo, a priest who prayed with the new pontiff. “We were given 10 minutes’ advance notice that the pope was coming.”

The first leader of the church to come from the Americas, home to nearly half the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Francis also takes the title of bishop of Rome.

In his first words to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday evening he made clear that he would take that part of his role seriously and made good on the promise by visiting one of the Italian capital’s most important churches.

From there, he asked the driver to go to a Rome residence for priests so that he could pick up bags he left there before he moved to a guesthouse inside the Vatican for the electoral conclave – a wry reminder that he did not expect to become pope.

Later on Thursday he was to go to the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, to pay meet Emeritus Pope Benedict, who last month became the first pontiff in 600 years to step down, saying that at 85 he was too frail to tackle all the problems of the Church. Francis is, at 76, older than many other contenders for the papacy.

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio’s election has broken Europe’s centuries-old grip on the papacy; he is also the first to take the name Francis, in honor of the 12th-century Italian saint from Assisi who spurned wealth to pursue a life of poverty.

His elevation on the second day of a closed-door conclave of cardinals came as a surprise, with many Vatican watchers expecting a longer deliberation, and none predicting the conservative Argentinian would get the nod.

The 266th pontiff in the Church’s 2,000-year history, Francis is taking the helm at a time of great crisis.

Morale among the faithful has been hit by a widespread child sex abuse scandal and in-fighting in the Vatican bureaucracy, which many in the Church say needs radical reform.

A cartoon in Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper showed the new pope telling the crowd on Wednesday about his surprise at being elected and then, pointing to aides, he says: “But that’s nothing compared to the surprises in store for them.”

When he appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, he looked as startled as anyone, hesitating a moment before stepping out to greet the huge crowds gathered in the square below to catch a glimpse of the new pontiff.

“I ask a favor of you … pray for me,” he urged the cheering crowds, telling them the 114 other cardinal-electors “went almost to the end of the world” to find a new leader.

“Good night and have a good rest,” Bergoglio said before disappearing back into the opulent surroundings of the Vatican City – a far cry from his simple apartment in Buenos Aires.

“Yesterday he transmitted such humility, love and brotherhood,” said a woman outside the Roman church he visited on Thursday morning.

On Wednesday night, delighted priests, nuns and pilgrims danced around the obelisk in the middle of St. Peter’s Square, chanting: “Long Live the Pope” and “Argentina, Argentina”.

In his native Argentina, jubilant Catholics poured into their local churches to celebrate.

“I hope he changes all the luxury that exists in the Vatican, that he steers the Church in a more humble direction, something closer to the gospel,” said Jorge Andres Lobato, a 73-year-old retired state prosecutor.

CHANGE OF DIRECTION

His unexpected election answered some fundamental questions about the direction of the Church in the coming years.

After more than a millennium of European leadership, the cardinal-electors looked to Latin America, where 42 percent of the world’s Catholics live. The continent is more focused on poverty and the rise of evangelical churches than questions of materialism and sexual abuse, which dominate in the West.

They also chose a man with long pastoral experience, rather than an academic and Vatican insider like Benedict XVI.

“It seems that this pope will be more aware of what life is all about,” Italian theologian Massimo Faggioli told Reuters.

Bergoglio was born into a family of seven, his father an Italian immigrant railway worker and his mother a housewife. He became a priest at 32, nearly a decade after losing a lung due to respiratory illness and quitting his chemistry studies.

Despite his late start, he was leading the local Jesuit community within four years. Bergoglio has a reputation as someone willing to challenge powerful interests and has had a sometimes difficult relationship with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.

Displaying his conservative orthodoxy, he has spoken out strongly against gay marriage, denouncing it in 2010 as “an attempt to destroy God’s plan,” and is expected to pursue the uncompromising moral teachings of Benedict and John Paul II.

Bergoglio is the first Jesuit to become pope. The order was founded in the 16th century to serve the papacy and is best known for its work in education and for the intellectual prowess of its members.

The Vatican said his inaugural Mass would be held on Tuesday. U.S. President Barack Obama said the election of Francis “speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world.”

AGE CONCERNS

In preparatory meetings before the conclave, the cardinals seemed divided between those who believed the new pontiff must be a strong manager to get the dysfunctional bureaucracy under control and others who were looking more for a proven pastoral figure to revitalize their faith across the globe.

Bergoglio was a rival candidate at the 2005 conclave to Benedict, but his name had not appeared on lists of possible contenders this time around, with many discounting him because of his age, thinking prelates wanted a younger leader.

The secret conclave began on Tuesday night with a first inconclusive ballot. Three more inconclusive ballots were held on Wednesday before Francis obtained the required two-thirds majority of 77 votes in the fifth and final vote.

Billowing white smoke poured from the Sistine Chapel and the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica rang out to announce the news, drawing Romans and tourists to the Vatican.

According to New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Francis raised gales of laughter from fellow cardinals at a subsequent dinner, telling them: “May God forgive you.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Monday is the deadline to register for Pennsylvania…

If residents want to vote in the May primary, which includes a vote for a new City Council member, today is the deadline to register.

National

Miss America thinks school should reconsider discipline of…

A Pa. student was suspended for asking Miss America to prom.

Local

Aria Health Torresdale workers caught selling prescription drugs

Two Aria Health at Torresdale employees were fired amid accusations they sold prescription drugs out of the Northeast Philadelphia campus.

National

Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter died Sunday from prostate cancer…

Former U.S. professional boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, who spent 19 years in prison for murder and then was released after it was determined he did not get a fair trial,…

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

The Word

Miley Cyrus cancels more dates, tweeting from hospital

Miley Cyrus is reportedly so sick that she's had to postpone more tour dates. We know this because she has been sitting in a hospital…

Music

Loop are, er, um, back in the loop

Experimental noise rock band Loop's three mid-1980s to early-1990s albums, “Heavens End,” “Fade Out” and “A Gilded Eternity,” were mercifully reissued.

MLB

Phillies get set for four against the Dodgers

The Phillies will face tough starting pitching out west against the Dodgers this week.

MLB

Phillies notebook: Cole Hamels returns this week

The Phillies should receive a big boost when Cole Hamels returns during the Dodgers series.

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.