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Pope's inaugural Mass to draw huge crowd

The Vatican was preparing for a huge crowd for Pope Francis' inaugural Mass on Tuesday, an event straddling religion and politics that will bring together European royalty, heads of state and world spiritual leaders. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to cram St. Peter's Square and surrounding streets for the Mass to formally install Francis as the new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. The crowd may be the biggest in Rome since more than 1.5 million people came to the city for the beatification of the late Pope John Paul II on May 1, 2011.

Schedule: Between 8:45 and 8:50 a.m. local time the pope will depart the Domus Sanctae Marthae and start to move through the crowd in the various sections of St. Peter's Square — either in a Jeep or the Popemobile — and greet those gathered. He will return to St. Peter's Basilica around 9:15 a.m. Mass begin at 9:30 a.m. The ceremony is expected to last about two hours, with Francis delivering his homily in Italian.

Where to watch: ETWN plans 41/2 hours of live coverage starting at 3:30 a.m. EDT. It will be repeated at 6 p.m.

Who will attend: The Vatican said six sovereigns, including from Belgium and Monaco, will be among the leaders of more than 130 delegations at the Mass. One significant attendee will be Bartholomew I, the ecumenical patriarch of Orthodox Christianity, the first time a spiritual leader of world Orthodoxy will attend a papal inaugural Mass since the East-West Schism of 1054. More than 30 delegations representing other Christian churches as well as representatives of the world's Jewish and Islamic communities. will also attend. Vice President Joe Biden and other Western leaders will be in the same VIP section on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica with Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who is technically infringing a European Union travel ban. Mugabe has been banned since 2002 because of allegations of vote rigging and human rights abuses, but the Vatican is not part of the European Union, allowing him to bend the rules. The Vatican stressed it does not issue invitations for such events but that they are open to representatives of all nations.

New pope's symbols: The Vatican on Monday released details of the symbols of Francis' pontificate, which in its inaugural days has been marked by his preference for simplicity and aversion to Holy See splendor. The new pope chose to keep the same coat of arms he had as archbishop of Buenos Aires, and picked the simplest ring out of several models offered him. It is fashioned in gold-plated silver and was once a gift to Pope Paul VI, who presided over the second half of Vatican II, the meetings that modernized the church.

The coat of arms has a necessary addition — the papal symbols surrounding it: a gilded miter, and crossed gold and silver keys. The shield itself, in very simple almost modern heraldry, depicts a star, a grape-like plan, and a monogram of Christ at the center of a fiery sun. The symbols represent the three members of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In religious writing, Mary is often referred to as a "star," while St. Joseph is often depicted holding a Middle Eastern plant. The monogram is the symbol of Francis' Jesuit order.

His motto suggests even more about the root of Francis' message: "Miserando atque eligendo," Latin for "Having had mercy, he called him," comes from an episode in the Gospel where Christ picks a seemingly unworthy person to follow him.

Reuters, Associated Press, vatican.va.

Pope's inaugural Mass to draw huge crowd 03/18/13 [Last modified: Monday, March 18, 2013 5:08pm]
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