Pope Francis greets crowds as he arrives for inauguration
Posted Tuesday, March 19 2013 at 11:22
Pope Francis swept into St Peter's Square on Tuesday to greet throngs of pilgrims before a sumptuous ceremony in which Latin America's first pontiff will receive the formal symbols of papal power.
Wearing his papal whites and standing in middle of an open-topped vehicle, the pope waved, smiled and gave the thumbs-up to the ecstatic crowds in the sun-drenched square.
The crowds had begun gathering from the early morning for a ceremony laden with centuries-old rituals and lavish imagery, which will begin with a first-time tour of the famous Vatican plaza by the Argentine pope.
"With Pope Francis, the Church will be closer to the people and to the modern world," said Rodrigo Grajales, a 31-year-old Colombian priest in the crowd, where people waved flags from around the world and banners hailing the pope.
The former archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, has already won hearts in Rome with a disarmingly informal style which will contrast with Tuesday's pomp and ceremony.
Bergoglio was the surprise choice at a conclave of cardinals to find a successor to 85-year-old Benedict XVI, who last month brought a sudden end to a papacy that had often been overshadowed by scandal, saying he was too old to carry on.
He was the first pope to resign since the Middle Ages.
The jovial Francis has said he chose his papal name in honour of the mediaeval Italian saint St Francis of Assisi and has called for a "poor Church for the poor", warning the world's cardinals against pursuing worldly glories.
"Go Francis! We Will Be With You Wherever You Go!" read a sign held up by a group of Brazilian nuns on St Peter's Square.
Sister Rosa, an elderly Italian nun, said she expected the pope would be "another St Francis on earth for love, goodness, poverty and humility".
The son of an Italian emigrant railway worker from a working-class quarter of Buenos Aires has been effusive in a way that is unusual in the Vatican, kissing pilgrims and doing impromptu walkabouts.
The arrivals have already presented Francis with a first diplomatic headache in the form of a request from compatriot President Cristina Kirchner of Argentina to mediate in a row with Britain over sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.
Francis is still haunted by criticism at home for failing to speak out against the excesses of Argentina's military rule during the dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s.
The Chinese government has also said it will not be sending any representatives after Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou said he was attending.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe also flew in, sidestepping an EU travel ban over human rights abuses that does not apply to the Vatican.