Pope’s 1st clarion call: Protect creation

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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(3rd UPDATE) In his inaugural homily, Pope Francis stays true to his name, which comes from a 12th-century saint associated with love for the environment

CHARISMATIC PONTIFF. Before his homily about care for creation, Pope Francis stops to kiss a sick man during his inaugural procession. Photo from Vatican Radio's Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – True to his name, Pope Francis on Tuesday, March 19, sounded a call to protect “the beauty of creation” during the two-hour ritual to install the 266th leader of the Catholic Church.

“Let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world!” said Francis, whose name comes from a 12th-century saint associated with love for creation.

Facing hundreds of world leaders, including Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay, Francis made this call especially to “all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political, and social life, and all men and women of goodwill.”

“But to be protectors,” he added, “we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy, and pride defile our lives!”

INSTALLATION RITES. Thousands of Catholics attend the rites to official begin Pope Francis' papacy. Photo from AFP

“Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down!” Francis explained, addressing a world that faces problems like climate change.

He said this call is not for Christians alone, but for every human being.

“It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness,” the Pope said.

“In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!”

‘Goodness, tenderness’

He linked this message to St Joseph, whose feast Catholics celebrate also on Tuesday. He said protecting creation “demands goodness” and “calls for a certain tenderness,” like St Joseph’s. 

“We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!” he said. (Watch the entire ritual below.)

Francis also spoke about authentic power, in light of his new ministry as Supreme Pontiff.

“Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross,” the Pope said.

He added: “He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete, and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and those in prison.”

“Only those who serve with love are able to protect!”

PRO-ENVIRONMENT. Pope Francis emphasizes love for creation in his inaugural homily on March 12. Photo from AFP

The Pope has said he chose to name himself after Francis of Assisi, a saint whom he described as “the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and safeguards creation.”

“In this moment when our relationship with creation is not so good – right? – he is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man… Oh, how I wish for a Church that is poor and for the poor,” Francis said in an interview with reporters in Vatican City.

The first Latin American and Jesuit pope, Francis is considered a champion of the poor.

Open-air popemobile

Earlier on Tuesday, the low-key Francis defied security concerns, and rode an open-air popemobile on his way to St Peter’s Square. He stunned Catholics who got used to pontiffs riding bulletproof vehicles, such as Benedict XVI and the late John Paul II.

SECURITY NIGHTMARE? Pope Francis rides an open-air popemobile. Photo from AFP

In several instances, the Pope stopped to touch or greet those attending the ritual, including a child and a sick man.

Before the Mass, Francis prayed before the tomb of St Peter, and received symbols of the papacy – a pallium that represents the Good Shepherd and a gold-plated silver ring, based on an old model, which he chose over a version customized for him. (Read: Pope’s inauguration in 3 symbols.)

FISHERMAN'S RING. Pope Francis chooses to use a previously designed gold-plated silver ring instead of one customized for him. Photo from AFP

For the past few days, the first Latin American Pope has broken several customs to promote a simpler Church.

When he first appeared at the Vatican balcony, for instance, Francis wore a simple papal cassock as opposed to more elaborate robes donned by previous popes.

He also asked the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to pray for him first, before he gave them his blessing. – Rappler.com


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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com