The Nigerian government sent 5 officials led by the president of the senate to the ceremony.
Over six heads of state including controversial Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe; and United States Vice President, Joe Biden; were on ground at the Vatican to celebrate with the first Latin American Pope of the church. After the mass, the pope was seen exchanging pleasantries and a handshake with Mr. Mugabe.
The Nigerian government sent five officials led by the president of the senate to the ceremony drawing flak at home for the seemingly large nature of the contingent.
Also present at the installation was the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of Orthodox Christianity. This will be the first time a head of the Orthodox Church will be present since the breakup between Western and Eastern Christianity, referred to as the Great Schism, about 1000 years ago.
In line with the austere style of the new pope who said he “wants to lead a poor church for the poor,” the ceremony that lasted 3 hours during the inauguration of his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, was today cut to two hours.
Before the commencement of the inauguration mass, the pope entered the basilica and venerated the tomb of St Peter. He was then presented with the Pallium (a woolen cloak), The Fisherman’s Ring (the symbol of St Peter), and the Book of the Gospels.
The Pallium, which is made of a combination of lamb and sheep’s wool with five red crosses, is symbolically placed on the shoulders of the pope signifying the Good Shepherd who carries the lost sheep on his shoulders. The one placed on Pope Francis’ shoulders today is the same used by his predecessor.
The Fisherman’s Ring, which is traditionally worn by all popes as their symbol of authority and official seal, symbolizes that the pope is the successor of Apostle Peter, believed by Catholics to be the first pope. Peter is known as the fisherman apostle and one who was called by Christ to be a “fisher of men”. Cardinal Deacon Sodano presented the ring to the pope. The ring was held by the Archbishop Macchi, Pope Paul VI’s personal secretary and later Msgr. Malnati who offered it to Pope Francis through Cardinal Re. The ring is made of silver and gold and designed by Enrico Manfrini.
Pope Francis delivered the inauguration homily in Italian. True to his devotion to the poor, he called on Christians to live a life of service to the poor, the weak, children, women and the environment.
“We must protect humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those who are hungry, thirsty, the stranger, those who are naked and in prison,” he said.
He said humans should shun hatred and envy as they defile our lives.
“Jesus conferred power on Peter, but what sort of power was it?” he asked.
“Jesus told Peter: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that real power is service, and that the pope too must enter ever more fully into that service when exercising power.
“Being custodians also means keeping watch over our own hearts, We must not be afraid of goodness, and we mustn’t be afraid of tenderness.
“Caring and protecting demands goodness and tenderness. Be protectors of God’s gifts. When humans fail to live up to this responsibility of protecting, the way is open to destruction and the heart hardens. Tragically, in every period of history, there are Herods who plot death and mar the countenance of men and women.”