Pope calls for protection of life, environment

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Pope Francis begins his petrine ministry with an inaugural Mass attended by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and global leaders at St. Peter's Square, March 19, 2013. (Photo: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA)

MANILA, March 20, 2013—Pope Francis has urged for protection of life and creation, saying it is everyone’s vocation—Christians or not—to be “protectors of God’s gifts”. 

Addressing a crowd of an estimated 200,000 during his inaugural Mass at St. Peter’s Square, the pope stressed the responsibility of human beings to respect and protect one another and the environment. 

“I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment,” the Holy Father—whose namesake St. Francis, was a lover of creation—said. 

With his homily focusing on St. Joseph, at whose solemnity he begins his Petrine ministry, the pope told the faithful to learn from the examples of the saint who listened attentively to “God’s voice.” 

Stressing St. Joseph’s vocation as the protector of Mary and Jesus and of the universal Church, the pontiff urged the faithful to follow his lead. 

Through the examples of St. Joseph, “we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ!” the pontiff said. “Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!” 

The pope urged everyone to respect and protect people, and show “loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.” 

Being protector also means “caring for one another in our families,” the pope continued, “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,” he furthered. 

The 76 year-old Jesuit pope, whose name was inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, also said everyone has the duty to protect all of creation, in reference to the saint’s love of ecology. 

He said human being’s failure to live up the responsibility of caring for creation and of one another often results to destruction and intransigence. 

“Tragically, in every period of history there are ‘Herods’ who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women,” he said. 

He also pointed out the need for a sustainable development, telling the crowd not to “allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world” and to remember always “that hatred, envy and pride [can] defile our lives!” 

The pope’s two-hour inaugural ceremony was attended by 132 delegations from various countries including representatives from the Buddhist, Jain, Jewish and Muslim communities. 

A liturgical ceremony rich in its symbolism preceded the inaugural Mass. 

Pope Francis was presented with two liturgical symbols of his Petrine ministry, the fisherman’s ring in gold-plated silver representing the Apostle Peter and the keys, and the pallium, a narrow stole of white wool made out of lamb’s wool and embroidered with five red crosses, symbolizing the five wounds of Christ. 

Power is service 

As the 266th pope and Successor of St. Peter, Francis does not only take on the role of being the Bishop of Rome but also the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics around the world. 

At his installation, Pope Francis reflected on the power that is associated with leadership and governance. 

He admitted that the Petrine ministry “involves a certain power” as Jesus Christ “conferred power upon Peter” but explained that it is a kind of power that is rooted in service.

“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,” he said. 

Like St. Joseph, the pope is called to faithful service, Francis remarked, as “only those who serve with love are able to protect.” 

“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,” Pope Francis further said. 

He reiterated that the service of protecting all of creation is a call that everyone must respond to. 

“To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!” 


Since Francis’ election to the papacy, observers have noted a stark difference between his style and that of his predecessor Benedict XVI. 

A day after his election, Francis slipped out of Vatican incognito to visit a cardinal friend in hospital and stopped at a Vatican hotel where he stayed before the conclave to collect his things and pay his bill. 

He has done away with other trappings that accompany his position, like declining to use the papal cape and preferring to wear just a simple white papal cassock. He also chose not to wear the red shoes his predecessors wore. 

Even before he became pope, Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio has earned a reputation of being a simple pastor and a deeply spiritual man. 

As a shepherd to around 2.5 million Argentinean Catholics, Bergoglio’s leadership style is said to be “low-key and close to the people.”  

According to reports, “he rides the bus, visits the poor, lives in a simple apartment and cooks his own meals. To many in Buenos Aires, he is known simply as ‘Father Jorge.’”  

His close relationship with his people was apparent when, in the morning before his inauguration, he called up Argentina and spoke to a large crowd at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires who were gathered to watch the inaugural mass on huge television screens. (Pinky Barrientos/CBCPNews)

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