March 15, 2013

Pope Francis breaks with tradition, style and formality

The clear message: He's different from Benedict

By NICOLE WINFIELD The Associated Press

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Pope Francis
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Pope Francis waves from the steps of the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome Thursday. At left is Cardinal Santos Abril of Spain and, right, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of Rome.

Reuters

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In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis, center, flanked at left by Cardinal Agostino Vallino, and at right by Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello, walks inside St. Mary Major Basilica, in Rome on Thursday. Pope Francis prayed at Rome's main basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary a day after cardinals elected him the 26th pope.

The Associated Press

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Francis began Thursday with an early morning trip in a simple Vatican car - not the papal sedan - to a Roman basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary, where he prayed before an icon of the Madonna.

Like many Latin American Catholics, Francis has a particular devotion to the Virgin Mary, and his visit to the St. Mary Major basilica was a reflection of that. Laying flowers on the altar, he then prayed before a Byzantine icon of Mary and the infant Jesus.

"He has a great devotion to this icon of Mary, and every time he comes from Argentina he visits this basilica," said the Rev. Elio Montenero, who was present for the pope's arrival. "We were surprised today because he did not announce his visit."

Francis himself had foreshadowed the visit, telling the 100,000 people packed into rain-soaked St. Peter's Square after his election that he intended to pray to the Madonna "that she may watch over all of Rome."

The new pope, known for his work with the poor in Buenos Aires' slums, had charmed the crowd when he emerged on the loggia and greeted them with a simple and familiar: "Brothers and sisters, good evening."

On Thursday, members of his flock were charmed again when Francis stopped by the Vatican-owned residence where he stayed before the conclave to pick up his luggage. But that wasn't the only reason he made the detour.

"He wanted to thank the personnel, people who work in this house," said the Rev. Pawel Rytel-Andrianek, a guest at the residence. "He greeted them one by one, no rush, the whole staff, one by one."

Francis then paid his bill "to set a good example," Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.

"People say that he never in these 20 years asked for a (Vatican) car," Rytel-Andrianek said. "Even when he went to the conclave with a priest from his diocese, he just walked out to the main road, picked up a taxi and went to the conclave. So very simple for a future pope."

Francis displayed that same sense of humility immediately after his election, spurning the throne on an elevated platform that was brought out for him to receive the cardinals' pledges of obedience, said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.

"He met with us on our own level," Dolan said.BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - The man who is now Pope Francis was a young Jesuit leader, not long out of seminary, when Argentina's military junta unleashed a reign of terror that became known as the "dirty war." That was more than 30 years ago, but the reaction to the naming of the first Argentine pope shows that the wounds have not yet healed.

Many Argentines were still stunned Thursday that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, had become the first pope from the Americas. But the joy was somewhat tempered by a public debate over Bergoglio's actions, or inactions, from 1976 to 1983, when 30,000 dissidents were killed or "disappeared," among them an estimated 150 priests.

At the time, Bergoglio was a Jesuit "provincial," in charge of the religious men's order, and then rector at a seminary, leadership positions that would not have given him the political clout later afforded by his post as archbishop. Still, critics in Argentina have started revisiting old allegations, including the claim that Bergoglio did not protect two Jesuit priests, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, who were seized and tortured by military authorities in May 1976.

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Additional Photos

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In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis puts flowers on the altar inside St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome on Thursday.

The Associated Press

Pope Benedict XVI
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Pope Benedict XVI in 2005

Reuters

 


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