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Pope Francis: Superstar

ROME ­— The full impact of Pope Francis' unexpected rise from little-known cardinal to heralded pontiff was hammered home Sunday, as a crushing capacity crowd jammed St. Peter's Square for a 10-minute prayer.

"I'm pleased to greet you on Sunday, which is fitting as it is the day of the Lord," said Francis in Italian from the window of his papal apartment. Below him roared an estimated crowd of 150,000, filling the square as well as neighboring streets.

Francis' first public appearance since being elected last week helped kick the new pontificate into gear. Among the Buenos Aires native's upcoming events is a meeting Monday with Argentine president Cristina Fernández, whom the conservative pope has criticized for her liberal stance on contraception and gay marriage.

Tuesday morning is Francis' installation Mass, which will be attended by world leaders including Vice President Biden, who is Catholic. But perhaps the most-watched encounter will take place Saturday. That's when the pope is scheduled to travel to Castel Gandolfo outside Rome to meet with pope-emeritus Benedict, whose shocking resignation last month set last week's unexpected conclave in motion.

It remains unclear how quickly Pope Francis will move to tackle some of the Catholic Church's tough problems, from financial scandals to social issues. But what's clear is that, much like an incoming American president riding a wave of good feeling, he has the momentum of public support.

Pope Francis issued his first tweet Sunday on the papal Twitter account, @pontifex, saying "Dear friends, I thank you from my heart and I ask you to continue to pray for me. Pope Francis." The account, which posts in nine languages and has 3.5 million followers, came back to life Wednesday after Francis was elected.

Before ending his brief appearance Sunday by saying the Hail Mary in Latin, the pope told the parable of an adulterous woman who isn't turned away by Jesus.

"God always has patience," he said in Italian. "We can always go back with a contrite heart."

Although she couldn't understand the content of his talk, the emotion of the moment got to Lucy Fanning of Pennington, N.J.

"This is ..." she said before fanning her face with her hand.

"I'm not even Catholic, I'm Protestant, but this is messing me up a bit," Fanning said, as her husband, Joe, a Catholic, smiled. The couple is escorting a group of private-school Latin students around Italy.

"You can tell this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," said Casey McGovern, 16, explaining the group's decision to brave the huge crowds only to get as far as a quarter-mile from St. Peter's. "It's his first address as pope to the people. You have to be here." None Crowds gather in St. Peter's Square before the Angelus with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Sunday.(Photo: Alessandra Tarantino, AP)

Countless other Romans agreed, choking the streets around the Vatican with baby carriages, dogs and bicycles as police officers struggled to keep order.

A half-hour before the pope's "Angelus," or public prayer, frantic faithful tried to make their way to the massive piazza in front of the basilica. One man yelled out at a well-dressed carabiniere officer, asking the best way to see the pope. "On TV," came the clipped reply.

Earlier Sunday morning, Pope Francis said Mass at the Church of St. Anna, which is reserved for employees of the Vatican and sits just inside its imposing walls.

Wearing the purple vestments of the liturgical season of Lent, Francis was at his disarming best, at one point urging parishioners to applaud a man who worked with street kids in Uruguay, whom he invited to greet him near the altar.

"Pray for him," the pope intoned. "I don't know how he got here (to Rome), but I'll find out."

After Mass concluded, the pope stood just outside the small church's front doors greeting every exiting parishioner as onlookers, held beyond barricades, chanted "Francesco, Francesco, Francesco

Most of the churchgoers kissed his left hand; many did so speechless and with tears in their eyes. Others clearly knew the pope from his recent incarnation as Cardinal Jose Mario Bergoglio, and with them he smiled and chatted amiably as if at a party.

Not so relaxed were the pope's black-suited private security detail. As the pontiff made to leave, he unexpectedly walked over to the cheering masses behind the barricades to shake hands and kiss babies.

Such interactions recall the papacy of John Paul II, who especially early in his tenure took particular pleasure interacting with his flock. A 1981 assassination attempt in the middle of St. Peter's Square changed things overnight, and gave rise to the often joked-about, bulletproof-glass-shrouded Popemobile.

During the height of Sunday's frenzy, the look on the security officers' faces was one of both deep concern as well as resignation. Clearly, this pope's populist nature will not be held back, and they will have to adjust in kind.

by Anonymousreply 2704/21/2014

OP, he is only "little"know and his elevation unexpected to those who were not paying attention. He nearly became Pope last time.

by Anonymousreply 103/18/2013

Not quite R1. Looking at last week's newspapers on line confirmed his name was absent from virtually the top dozen candidates.

by Anonymousreply 203/18/2013

Francis is this month's Maxima!

by Anonymousreply 303/18/2013

Yes R2, you are referring to the popular press which never gets anything wrong. My bad.

by Anonymousreply 403/18/2013

People have lost their minds. When I saw the news last night and people were crying and losing their sanity when he was shaking hands with people, you would've swore God himself was walking the earth.

Are these religious nuts that stupid? He's a person just like anyone else and was appointed pope by people, not God. It's all just so laughable!

by Anonymousreply 503/19/2013

The one thing about him that gives me pause is the Jesuit bit.

As I've said before Jesuits tend to be highly educated. And as we all know, the more educated you are the less likely you are to believe in sky fairies.

by Anonymousreply 703/19/2013

Mindless mob mentality. Very scary.

by Anonymousreply 903/19/2013

The morning news shows have been positively jerking off to this story for two weeks now. My partner asked why, I reminded him that I was not the Catholic in the bed.

I asked his mother how she felt about it. "Meh"

by Anonymousreply 1003/19/2013

I thought the USA was a Protestant country. From what the news programs cover, you would think everyone here is Catholic.

by Anonymousreply 1103/19/2013

I don't understand the Pope thing either.

by Anonymousreply 1203/19/2013

[quote]The Pope is chosen by the Cardinals but, WITH the guidance of the Holy Spirit, A.K.A. God.

AKA their imaginations and delusions.

by Anonymousreply 1303/19/2013

R11, he is a celebrity, and that is what matters to the US media

by Anonymousreply 1403/19/2013

R5, the crazed crowd is responding to the greatness of the office not to the man. I was in a mob that greeted Prince Charles once. I will never forget the wave of euphoria that erupted when the rather short man with a conspicuous bald spot walked twenty feet from his limo to the front door of the hotel.

by Anonymousreply 1503/19/2013

Looks like Pope Francis is going to be beloved like Pope John Paul II was.

by Anonymousreply 1603/19/2013

I don't know --- during the conclave, it ocurred to me that this was a group of old men, completely clueless about what was happening with their Church.

I think Pope Francis may have a better Pope image, but, I believe, the sad decline of the Catholic Church will continue for the forseeable future.

They are so out of touch ...

by Anonymousreply 1703/20/2013

[quote]the crazed crowd is responding to the greatness of the office not to the man. I was in a mob that greeted Prince Charles once. I will never forget the wave of euphoria that erupted when the rather short man with a conspicuous bald spot walked twenty feet from his limo to the front door of the hotel.

You're right about that reaction. I was in a crowd that was about 50 feet from the British royal family - Queen Elizabeth, her husband, mother, sister, cousins, children, and grand children. It's being close to people who are or will be in history books that causes a unique reaction from within. I shook hands when greeted by a U.S. president and vice president who would never get my vote, but it was touching history.

Millions of people still remember where they were when JFK was shot or when Elvis died. Those of us who have been standing nearby or even touched a person who will be in history books have a unique reason to remember and to enjoy that memory for many years.

by Anonymousreply 1803/20/2013

Most of those people are 1) devout Catholics who would show up if Whoopi Goldberg was the new Pope and 2) tourists anxious to see a person of historic significance, especially at a historic moment. They get "I was there" points. I don't think it says anything about this Pope's popularity or appeal.

by Anonymousreply 1903/20/2013

Perhaps the church is falling apart, and of course he will never say anything good about the gays (We have Hillary and others on ourt side - so that's a plus)but I like his messaging so far on the poor and the environment.

by Anonymousreply 2003/20/2013

Those who love the Pope will love this one a lot. Those who are lukewarm to the Church may be impressed by his humility and concern for the poor, but the intransigence on gender and human sexuality will remain a stumbling block.

by Anonymousreply 2103/20/2013

I was in the church when Pope John Paul II said mass at the Mission Dolores in SF in 1987. The crowd was insane. There were nuns jumping up and down on the pews and shouting his name. Even though I wasn't a devout Catholic, it was easy to get caught up with feeling like he was somehow God-like. It was quite an experience.

by Anonymousreply 2203/20/2013

[quote]You dizzy queens must realize that Pope Francis is BELOVED,

I'm afraid you're right. He doesn't even speak English, but such a stark difference of style from Ratzinger.

by Anonymousreply 2303/22/2013

The last pope was very popular in his first years as well. The catholic church has some cleaning up to do so they are fishing for favorable PR. They have publicists who advise them what to do.

by Anonymousreply 2412/10/2013

Benedict was not a people person and had no charisma like Francis does.

by Anonymousreply 2512/25/2013

Too bad he is not a good looking younger Pope.

by Anonymousreply 2612/25/2013

He is old, so he will not be around long like JP II was.

by Anonymousreply 2704/21/2014
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