Pope Francis pauses in front of a statue of Mary and Jesus as he arrives to celebrate his inaugural Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 19. CNS photo/Paul Hanna, Reuters

First impressions? Very impressive

By  Catholic Register Special
  • March 24, 2013

ROME - The simplicity of Pope Francis and his paternal goodness is a sign of hope for the Church, said Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine.

Lépine was among an estimated crowd of more than 150,000 in attendance March 19 at the installation Mass of Pope Francis.

He was impressed at how people from all walks of life, including vast numbers of youth, gathered “in joy” and prayer in St. Peter’s Square.

“The obvious enthusiastic response of the Romans, whose hearts he has conquered, is a source of hope,” Lépine said. “The constant presence of young people, and in great numbers, at the different events witnesses to the action of God in their hearts.”

Cardinal Thomas Collins noticed that the people have responded enthusiastically to the pastoral, loving personality of Pope Francis.

“The crowds were huge,” Collins said. “I went out at 6:30 this morning and people were already running to get to St. Peter’s. It was the same on Sunday.

“It shows the excitement and joy right now of being Catholic. Sometimes people talk about the Church falling apart — which is not true — but events like this show the Church is deeply strong in faith.”

Archbishop Richard Smith, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the installation Mass, attended by religious and political leaders from around the world, “demonstrated clearly the capacity of the papacy to be an instrument of global peace and unity.”

“Extraordinary is the warmth and love with which our new Holy Father has been immediately embraced by the people, both here in Rome and elsewhere,” Smith said.

“This was on full display this morning in the joy-filled response of the immense crowd to the person and message of the Pope.”

Smith said the Pope’s homily set out a great challenge: to follow the example of St. Joseph and be faithful custodians of God’s many gifts, especially the gift of the poor, vulnerable and forgotten of the world.

“The Church and world have been given a great gift in Pope Francis,” he said.

Clayton Imoo of Richmond, B.C., who works in the youth office of the archdiocese of Vancouver, was part of the Canadian government delegation and was seated about 30 rows back from the main altar in St. Peter’s Square.

“I was impressed with Pope Francis himself, his homily and his delivery,” he said. “I was moved by the respect of the crowd. The crowd was very reverent and understood the seriousness and the impact of that moment.”

For Sabrina Di Matteo, who works in chaplaincy at the University of Montreal, the experience of witnessing the first Mass of Pope Francis was extraordinary.

“The Mass was very prayerful, simple, solemn and warm,” she said. “I was very impressed with the silence and the prayerful atmosphere that was in the square.

“We’ve been hearing a lot about his style, that he is humble and simple, but he’s also showing himself to be a Pope for the people, for everyone.”

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