Europe

Pope Francis calls for evangelism drive

  • 15 March 2013
  • From the section Europe
Media captionThe BBC's Luisa Baldini says the Pope told the cardinals ''we are friends'' and also paid tribute to his predecessor

Pope Francis has urged his cardinals "to find new ways to bring evangelisation to the ends of the Earth".

Addressing them as “brothers”, he said: "Let us not give in to pessimism, to that bitterness that the devil offers us every day."

He was speaking in the Salla Clementina, the ornate chamber where Pope Benedict held his final meeting before resigning last Month.

The new Pope was elected on Wednesday night after five secret ballots.

The 76-year-old Argentine is the first pope from Latin America, a region that has seen a dramatic shift in religious observance in recent years, with the Roman Catholic Church losing followers attracted to Pentecostal churches.

In his opening address on Wednesday night, Pope Francis joked that his electors had travelled "to the ends of the Earth" to find their new leader.

On Saturday, he is set to hold an audience for many of the 5,600 journalists accredited to cover the Conclave - giving him an opportunity to set out some of his global vision.

He will be officially installed at an inauguration Mass on Tuesday.

He has yet to make any senior appointments, and Vatican-watchers are keeping a keen eye on who gets the nod as sostituto.

Effectively the Vatican’s prime minister, the Pope’s pick will play a key role in running the Curia - the administrative body widely perceived as riven with management problems and corruption.

'Compassionate NGO'

Sporting plain white vestments and a cross, and opting for plain dark shoes rather than red ones, Pope Francis spoke in Italian during Friday's meeting, occasionally breaking off from the prepared text to speak off the cuff.

Old people had the wisdom of life, he told the gathering of predominantly grey-haired men: "Let us give this wisdom to young people like good wine."

Thanking his predecessor for “enriching the Church with his faith and humility”, Pope Francis entrusted his ministry to Mary the Mother of Christ, saying he would work under her "benevolent gaze".

The Pope stumbled when he greeted the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

But he quickly regained his composure, and took time at the end of the meeting to individually greet each cardinal, including those older than 80 who were not involved in the Conclave.

On Thursday, the new Pope warned the Church would become "a compassionate NGO [non-governmental organisation]" without spiritual renewal – “just as when children make sand castles and then it all falls down".

The first Latin American Pope - and the first from the fiercely independent order of Jesuits - the former archbishop of Buenos Aires chose the name of Francis after St Francis of Assisi, the 13th-Century Italian reformer, who spurned a life of luxury to live in poverty.

Force for reform?

The former Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio has already stamped a new, simpler, style on the papacy. He prefers simple robes to ornate pontifical attire, and shunned a papal car after his election to travel with his electors by bus.

He endeared himself to the St Peter’s Square faithful on Wednesday night by asking them to pray for him before he blessed them from the balcony after his opening address.

Pope Francis is regarded as a doctrinal conservative, but he is also seen as a potential force for reform of the Vatican bureaucracy.

The new Pope has yet to meet his predecessor, who has been living in seclusion since his retirement at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

Vatican officials say a meeting will take place – but not for the next few days.

Pope Emeritus Benedict, 85, became the first pope in 600 years to resign on 28 February, citing ill-health.

Image caption From a humble background in Argentina, Jorge Mario Bergoglio has risen to the head of the Roman Catholic Church as Pope Francis. We look at key moments in his life and career so far.
Image caption Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born on 17 December 1936 in Buenos Aires. His father was an Italian immigrant railway worker. He became a Jesuit priest at 32, a decade after losing a lung due to illness and abandoning his chemistry studies. He became a bishop in 1992 and was made Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998.
Image caption 1970s: Human rights groups have raised questions about his role under the Argentine military dictatorship of 1976-1983 - and particularly about the kidnap of two Jesuit priests. The cardinal's office has always denied his involvement. He told Perfil magazine in 2010 he had helped some dissidents escape the country.
Image caption 1982: Pope Francis has been a strong supporter of the veterans of the war in the Falkland Islands - referred to in Argentina as Las Malvinas. He has spoken against attempts to "demalvinizar" or gloss over the history of the war.
Image caption 2001: The Archbishop of Buenos Aires became a cardinal in 2001, as the Argentine economy was in crisis. Speaking in Buenos Aires as thousands joined rallies against government austerity plans, he highlighted the contrast between the rich and "poor people who are persecuted for demanding work".
Image caption 2005: Cardinal Bergoglio was seen as a strong contender to become Pope at the 2005 conclave to elect a successor to Pope John Paul II. He was reported to be the chief rival to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was duly elected and became Pope Benedict XVI.
Image caption 2009: As cardinal and archbishop, he stood out for his humility, living in a modest apartment, rather than his luxury official residence. In his sermons, he often stressed social inclusion and criticised governments which did not help those on the margins of society, describing poverty in Argentina as "immoral and unjust".
Image caption 2010: Although Pope Francis is strong on social justice, he is extremely conservative on sexual matters. He voiced staunch opposition to gay marriage when it was legalised in Argentina in 2010. He said: "Let's not be naive: this isn't a simple political fight, it is a destructive attack on God's plan."
Image caption 2012: Cardinal Bergoglio preferred life outside the bureaucracy of Rome and he criticised those "who clericalise the Church". In a sermon to Argentine priests, he attacked those who would not baptise children of single mothers. "Those who separate the people of God from salvation. These are today's hypocrites."
Image caption 2013: Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was not seen by the media as one of the front-runners to succeed Pope Benedict. But he is now the first non-European Pope for more than 1,000 years and the first from Latin America, home to 40% of the world's Catholics.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites