Mass points to Pope's new priorities

Pope Francis greets the faithful during his Inauguration Mass in St Peter's Square in Vatican City, Vatican, on Tuesday
Image caption Man of the people? The Pope's inauguration Mass was a shorter, simpler affair than many before, and he appealed to "human" values

From the moment he walked out onto the balcony on St Peter's Basilica and stood calmly surveying the crowd, Pope Francis' body language has suggested a change of style.

Tuesday's shorter, simpler, inaugural Mass reinforced the impression of a Pope of humility and simplicity.

Pope Francis' homily - direct and comprehensible - suggested that those qualities would shape his pontificate too.

He acknowledged that his election as Pope placed him in a position of power.

But he said for that power to be valid, or "authentic", it must be exercised in self-sacrificing service to others.

That service, he told the thousands of clergy among the throng in St Peter's Square, had to be directed especially to those most in need - "the poorest, the weakest, the least important".

It was the clearest sign yet that the preoccupation with social justice shown by Cardinal Bergoglio in Buenos Aires will be transferred onto the world stage by Pope Francis in Rome.

Structural reform?

But the homily contained another passage potentially even more revealing about how Pope Francis might intend the Church to deal with changing societies in the future.

Pope Francis was talking about the role of St Joseph - the husband of Mary - as protector of the holy family.

He was able to carry out that role, said the Pope, not only because he heard the word of God, but because he responded to it "realistically".

"He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions", said Pope Francis.

Many Roman Catholics will want that sentiment to be translated into a reform of the Church's structures to give bishops more power to affect its policy.

Although Pope John Paul II made some changes to the Vatican's civil service, or Curia, the last major reorganisation was under Pope Paul VI during the 1960s.

Responding to the priorities of the Second Vatican Council, the reforms gave bishops from around the world the chance to participate in governing the Vatican, introduced limited five-year terms, and specified regular inter-departmental consultation.

Gradually the devolving effect of those reforms has been eroded and the Curia has re-centralised power in the Church.

Pope Francis' thinking will become more apparent in the next few weeks as he makes key appointments - especially that of secretary of state, in effect his deputy.

But it is already clear that Francis will make the environment a priority.

'Simply human'

Building on his theme of protecting the good in the world, the Pope invoked his namesake Francis of Assisi as he called for respect for "each of God's creatures and... the environment in which we live".

He said the duty belonged not just to Christians but was "simply human, involving everyone".

A new look Pope

  • Click a number to start

    As Pope Francis celebrated his inaugural mass, his outward appearance signalled the style of his papacy which he has said aims to provide a "poor Church, for the poor".

    Click on the numbers on the left to see how Pope Francis' choice of vestments and attire compare with those of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

    Images: Reuters, AP

  • Papal stole 1 of 5

    At his first appearance on the balcony of St Peter's, Pope Francis chose not to wear the red mozzetta (cape), a garment typically adopted by the newly-elected Pope.

    He also chose not to wear the ornate Papal stole, except for the blessing.

    Pope Benedict XVI in contrast wore both throughout his first blessing from the balcony.

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  • Pectoral cross 2 of 5

    The most recognised symbol of the Christian church around the world, the Pope wears a cross on the chest, usually suspended from the neck by a cord or chain.

    Pope Francis opted for an iron cross rather than the ornate gold one preferred by his predecessor, in keeping with the more understated style of his pontificate.

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  • Papal ring 3 of 5

    A special ring, unique to each Pope, is presented as part of the inauguration mass.

    Pope Francis selected a gold-plated, silver ring, which was initially designed for and held by the late Archbishop Pasquale Macchi, the longtime private secretary to Venerable Paul VI.

    Benedict XVI wore a solid gold ring, crafted by Claudio Franchi and his family of goldsmiths.

    Both rings show St. Peter casting out his net, symbolizing how popes are successors of the apostle Peter.

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  • Vestments 4 of 5

    Along with the ring a pallium is placed on the Pope during inauguration mass. This is a narrow scarf woven of white lamb's wool - symbolizing Jesus as the good shepherd.

    The chasuble is the outermost vestment worn by clergy for the celebration of the Eucharist. Pope Francis wore mostly white, while Benedict XVI wore golden robes.

    In contrast to Pope Francis' simple papal mitre, his predecessor's was ornate gold and with three levels of 'crowns' representing the powers of the Papacy in a simplified form.

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  • Shoes 5 of 5

    One of the most commented on aspects of Benedict XVI's inaugural mass was his red leather loafers, which were made by his personal cobbler, Adriano Stefanelli.

    In contrast Pope Francis wore plain, dark leather shoes.

    It is said that before he left Buenos Aires for Rome, as Cardinal Bergoglio, he was wearing a pair of shoes so shabby that friends insisted on buying him a new pair.

    Return to introduction

Perhaps the most remarkable message from Pope Francis' inauguration was not contained in the homily at all, but in the participation of another prelate.

Included in the group that prayed with Pope Francis at the crypt of St Peter was the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew.

It was the first time since the split between the Eastern and Western churches in 1054 that the leader of the Eastern Orthodox churches has attended a papal inauguration.

It was a strong signal of friendship from the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Different denominations, and indeed different religions, share many of the same challenges - scepticism and indifference for example - in the increasingly secular Western world.

The people of Pope Francis' Rome diocese - and far beyond it - have warmed to what they have seen of his personality.

They will now be waiting to see humility and simplicity matched by action in reforming the Church.