Pope Francis Urges Mercy in First Angelus From St. Peter’s

Pope Francis
Pope Francis is the first South American to lead the Catholic Church and the first non-European pontiff in more than 1,200 years. Photographer: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Pope Francis said mercy can change the world in his first Sunday Angelus prayer as pontiff after earlier personally greeting worshipers who had attended mass in the Vatican.

“A bit of mercy can make the world less cold and fairer,” Pope Francis said, speaking in Italian. “Have a good Sunday and a nice lunch,” Pope Francis, 76, said as he bid the crowd farewell.

About 150,000 people gathered to see former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina lead the faithful in prayer from his window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Ansa news agency reported, citing Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman.

More than 1 million people are expected to attend the new pope’s inauguration mass on March 19, Rome’s prefect Giuseppe Pecoraro told Ansa on March 15. World leaders from around the globe will attend, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden and Argentine Prime Minister Cristina Fernandez.

Pope Francis is the first South American to lead the Catholic Church and the first non-European pontiff in more than 1,200 years. His election on March 13 followed the unprecedented abdication of predecessor Benedict XVI.

Known for his humility and simple lifestyle -- he rides the metro at home in Buenos Aires and cooks for himself -- Pope Francis this week turned down the use of a papal motorcade and chose to ride the Vatican minibus with other cardinals. He also rejected prepared texts in Latin, preferring to speak directly to his audiences in Italian.

Today Pope Francis wore a simple white cassock as he greeted the crowd, eschewing the red ermine-lined cape often worn by his predecessors.

Pope Francis inherits a church riven by intrigue and infighting within its bureaucracy and weakened by the fallout from sexual abuse scandals. With his built-in appeal to those in the developing world, he may help rejuvenate a faith that is in decline in Europe and barely expanding in the U.S.

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