(NECN/AP) - Pope Francis led his installation Mass in St. Peter's Square this morning, urging the world to protect the poor, weak, and the environment.
Francis, 76, thrilled the crowd at the start of the Mass by taking a long round-about through the sun-drenched piazza and getting out of his jeep to bless a disabled man. It was a gesture from a man whose short papacy so far is becoming defined by such spontaneous forays into the crowd and concern for the disadvantaged.
The Vatican said between 150,000-200,000 people attended the Mass, held under bright blue skies after days of chilly rain and featuring flag-waving fans from around the world. In Buenos Aires, thousands of people packed the central Plaza di Mayo square to watch the celebration on giant TV screens and erupted in joy when Francis called them from Rome, his words broadcast to the crowd over loudspeakers.
"I want to ask a favor," Francis told them. "I want to ask you to walk together, and take care of one another. And don't forget that this bishop who is far away loves you very much. Pray for me."
Some 132 official delegations attended, including Vice President Joe Biden.
After the Mass, Francis stood in a receiving line to greet each of the government delegations in St. Peter's Basilica, chatting warmly with each one, kissing the few youngsters who came along with their parents and occasionally blessing a rosary given to him. Unlike his predecessors, he did so in just his white cassock, not the red cape.
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