Pope Francis opens Holy Week at Vatican on Palm Sunday

by
March 25, 2013

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis celebrated his first Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square, encouraging people to be humble and young at heart as he promised to go to a youth jamboree Brazil this summer, while the faithful enthusiastically waved olive branches and braided palm fronds.

The square overflowed with some 250,000 pilgrims, tourists and Romans eager to join the new pope at the start of solemn Holy Week ceremonies, which lead up to Easter, Christianity’s most important day.

Keeping with his spontaneous style, the first pope from Latin America broke away several times from the text of his prepared homily to encourage the faithful to lead simple lives.

At the end of the two-hour Mass, Francis took off his red vestments, leaving only the white cassock and skull cap, and climbed into an open-topped popemobile to circle through the enthusiastic crowd. He leaned out to shake hands, kissed and patted the heads of infants passed to him by bodyguards, and often gave children the thumbs-up sign.

His security detail seemed to be reluctantly dealing with this get-close-to-the-people pontiff, scrambling around the vehicle to pick up this child or that one. At one point, the chief bodyguard, Domenico Giani, was sent back to the mother of a child he had greeted to convey a message from the pontiff, and the ever-tense Mr. Giani broke into a smile after his mission was accomplished.

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