Pope Francis calls for evangelism drive
- 15 March 2013
- From the section Europe
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.
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.