Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

March 18, 2013

Pope wades into crowds, surprising onlookers

VATICAN CITY — Walking up to crowds, shaking hands with surprised bystanders in the street, mixing his formal speeches with off-the-cuff remarks, Pope Francis stamped his own style on the papacy Sunday.

His humor and down-to-earth manner captivated those filling St. Peter’s Square in Rome to overflowing, and he worked the crowd in a way that had to give his security staff palpitations. Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno, in the square himself, estimated the crowd’s size at 300,000.

‘’Brothers and sisters, ‘Buon giorno,”’ Francis said in Italian in his first welcome from the window of the papal residence, setting an informal tone that has become the defining spirit of his young papacy.

Earlier Sunday, he made an impromptu appearance before the public from a side gate of the Vatican that startled passers-by and prompted cheers as he shook hands and kissed babies. Francis had just finished celebrating Mass and delivering a six-minute homily — brief by church standards — in the Vatican’s tiny parish church, St. Anna, when he walked outside to greet parishioners one by one, just as an ordinary pastor does after weekly services.

Francis started speaking at the window even before the stroke of noon — the appointed time for the weekly papal address.  The windows of the papal study in the Apostolic Palace were opened for the first time since Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, gave his last Sunday blessing on Feb. 24. Four days later, Benedict went into retirement, the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years.

Francis, the first pope from Latin America, was elected Wednesday and has been staying in a hotel on the Vatican’s premises until the papal apartment is ready.

“The pope is down-to-earth. He is a people person and it is amazing,” said Emanuel Anatsui from Britain. “He is going to do wonderfully for the church.”

After Mass, Francis again put his security detail to the test as he waded into an intersection just outside St. Anna’s Gate. Francis stepped up to the crowd, grasping outstretched hands. The atmosphere was so casual that several people even gripped Francis on the shoulder.

“Francesco! Francesco!” children shouted his name in Italian. As he patted one little boy on the head, he asked “Are you a good boy?” and the child nodded.

“Are you sure?” the pope quipped.

At one point he glanced at his watch and turned to an aide — as if to ask ‘’How much time do I have?”

The pope then ducked back inside the Vatican’s boundaries to dash upstairs for the address to St. Peter’s Square.

Often abandoning the prepared text in his hand, Francis told the crowd that he wanted to talk about mercy, saying he was inspired by a book about forgiveness that he was reading. Citing the author, an elderly German cardinal, and praising him as a ‘’top-notch” theologian, Francis quipped: ‘’Don’t think I’m making publicity for my cardinals’ books!” drawing a roar of laughter from the crowd.

Francis said mercy can ‘’change the world” and make it “less cold and more just.”

He spoke only in Italian — ending with “Buon pranzo” (Have a good lunch) — a wish that triggered nods of approval from the crowd in Rome, where a leisurely Sunday family lunch is a cherished tradition.

But Francis did tweet in English and other languages, saying: “Dear friends, I thank you from my heart and I ask you to continue to pray for me.”’

Past pontiffs have used the Sunday window greetings to offer brief reflections and wishes in several languages.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Francis would likely stick with Italian, a language he’s comfortable with for spontaneous remarks. Lombardi left open the possibility the 76-year-old pope would use other languages in future public appearances.

During his window speech, Francis also talked about of his family’s roots in Italy’s northwestern Piedmont region. He told the crowd that by naming himself as pope after St. Francis of Assisi, an Italian patron saint, he was ‘’strengthening my spiritual tie with this land, where, as you know, my family has its origins.”

The crowd was cheering wildly when Francis appeared at the window, but fell into rapt silence when he began to speak. Some people’s eyes welled up. Many people waved the blue-and-white flag of Argentina, the pope’s homeland. Some people held their children aloft or on their shoulders to get a better look.

“We are so proud. He is Argentine, but also belongs to the rest of the world,” said Ivana Cabello, 23, of Argentina.

Angela Carreon, a 41-year-old Rome resident originally from the Philippines, ventured that Francis “looks like John Paul II. “

“I hope he is like him,” she said. “He has a heart.”

The globe-trotting Polish-born John Paul II, who died in 2005, loved to charm the crowds.

Several hundred extra traffic police were deployed Sunday to control crowds and vehicles for Francis’ first window speech as well as the annual Rome marathon. Bus routes were rerouted and many streets were closed off to channel the curious and the faithful up the main boulevard from the Tiber river to St. Peter’s Square.

Giant video screens were set up so the huge crowd could get a close look at Francis, and dozens of medical teams were on hand for any emergencies. In the last hour before noon, a large backup formed of people trying to squeeze through three openings in the fence ringing the front of the square. But by the time Francis appeared, all had calmly found a viewing spot.

Among Francis’ first formal meetings is an appointment Monday with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez. That will provide an opportunity to see if the new pope’s easygoing manner still holds — the two have been on opposite sides for many years. As Buenos Aires archbishop, Francis had lobbied hard against the government’s move to legalize gay marriage and make contraceptives available for free.

On Tuesday, Fernandez will join other world leaders and senior international envoys, including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and the president of Jesuit-run Georgetown University, for Francis’ formal installation as pope.

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Bears spotted on Baytree Road

    A pair of bear sightings along Baytree Road could indicate a growing black bear population in Lowndes County.

    July 29, 2014

  • photo.JPG Dump truck suspects apprehended

    LCSO has apprehended both of the suspects believed to be connected with the theft of a dump truck in Macon on Monday.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dollar Tree-Family Do_Rich copy.jpg Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar

    The fight for penny pinchers is intensifying.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Mideast Israe_Rich copy.jpg Gaza war rages despite Hamas, Israel truce pledges

    Israel and Hamas launched new attacks Sunday in the raging Gaza war, despite going back and forth over proposals for a temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting ahead of a major Muslim holiday.
    The failure to reach even a brief humanitarian lull in the fighting illustrated the difficulties in securing a more permanent truce as the sides remain far apart on their terms.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ga. woman sentenced in child abuse case

    The mother of a 1-year-old boy who was hospitalized with a fractured skull in 2012 has been sentenced to nine years in prison.

    July 29, 2014

  • AP81072904918 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • United Way presents fundraising prom

    Save the date — and make sure to find one — for The Prom, a retro-celebration to benefit the Greater Valdosta United Way.

    July 29, 2014

  • Times hosts blood drive

    The Valdosta Daily Times will participate in a blood drive, 12:30-5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1, with the American Red Cross Bloodmobile visiting The Times’ 201 N. Troup St. parking lot.

    July 29, 2014

  • Free health fair planned for Quitman on Aug. 9

    A free health fair hosted by the 100 Black Men of Brooks-Grady-and-Thomas Counties, Inc. and sponsored by Archbold Hospital will take place Aug. 9  from 8 a.m.-noon. The second annual 100 B-G-T Health Fair will be located at the Courtland Avenue Church of Christ in Quitman. All Valdosta-Lowndes County residents are welcome to attend.

    July 29, 2014

  • Lake Park considers millage rate increase

    Lake Park has tentatively adopted a millage rate which will result in a 29.64 percent increase in property taxes.

    July 28, 2014

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results