Mar 19 2013
Pope Francis has called on world leaders to respect the environment and protect the weakest in society as he began his ministry as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
The 266th pontiff highlighted themes of humility and service as he was formally inaugurated at a Mass in St Peter's Square in Rome attended by heads of state, royalty and religious representatives from across the world.
In his sermon, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires and the first ever pope from Latin America, spoke of the importance of protecting the "beauty of the created world" and humanity, especially children, the poor and those in need - calling on those in "positions of responsibility" to be protectors of creation.
"Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened," he told crowds gathered in St Peter's Square.
"Tragically, in every period of history there are 'Herods' who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women. Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill - let us be 'protectors' of creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment."
The 76-year-old pope, who is known for his frugal lifestyle, said his role as leader of the Roman Catholic Church and Bishop of Rome must be inspired by the example of the "lowly concrete service" of St Joseph, whose feast day coincided with the inaugural Mass.
The Pope drew applause from the crowd when he spoke of his "venerable predecessor" Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and he also quoted from Pope John Paul II.
Earlier, Pope Francis thrilled the crowd at the start of the Mass by taking a drive through the piazza and getting out of his vehicle to bless a disabled man. Before the Mass began, Francis received the fisherman's ring symbolising the papacy and the pallium, a woollen stole, worn by Benedict XVI, and symbolic of his role as shepherd of the worldwide Catholic faithful.
Around 132 delegations attended the Mass, with those attending including Cabinet ministers Kenneth Clarke and Baroness Warsi - minister for faith and communities.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, who completes his prayer pilgrimage in advance of his enthronement on Thursday, was represented by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu. The Queen was represented by the Duke of Gloucester.