World Leaders Welcome New Pope in Rome

Catholic pilgrims from around the world greet the new pope with their countries' flags. David Palacio / Religio.

Catholic pilgrims from around the world greet the new pope with their countries’ flags. David Palacio / Religio.

ROME- Flags from around the world waved over the heads of the cheering crowds that packed St. Peter’s Square on Tuesday for the installation of Pope Francis. Those who came with their flags did so for several reasons: to show their support for the new pontiff, to welcome their national leaders who were part of the international delegation and to make sure the pope is aware of some their countries’ political woes.

Political leaders and dignitaries from around the world joined their citizens in participating in the historic installation. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina, the homeland of the new pope, was one of many international notables, which also included U.S. Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, and Spain’s Prince Felipe.

Marcos Alejandro Ramirez, a native of Argentina now living in Rome, said he was proud of the new pope who hails from his country.  But the flag that he waved was about more than just pride. It read “La Herida esta Abierta” or “The Wound is Open.”  Ramirez wanted to show how the decades-long battle between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the South Atlantic Falkland Islands continues to plague thousands of citizens.

“This is a conflict that we still need to solve,” he said. “But I feel very proud because the pope is a man of faith…he is very relatable.”

Dignitaries and average citizens alike travel to Rome to see the pope.  David Palacio / Religio.

Dignitaries and average citizens alike travel to Rome to see the pope. David Palacio / Religio.

Political leaders from the newly independent nation of South Sudan were not present during the installation, but the country’s black, red and green flag was.  The Rev. Onesimo Kenyi Joseph-Venansio, who arrived at the Square three hours before the ceremony began, decided to display the South Sudan flag to highlight the ongoing political warfare between his homeland and North Sudan.

“The pope represents charity and the poor,” said Joseph-Venansio, who’s been studying philosophy in Italy for 6 months. “He is important for the faith of the Catholic people in South Sudan and he will help us because he will carry on the motto of Saint Francis.”

Carlos Sanchez and his wife Maria Pilar took Prince Felipe of Spain’s lead and traveled to Rome with their four daughters.  They hope both he and their country’s leaders will maintain a strong relationship with Pope Francis.  The pope’s personality and background makes this an easy feat, they said.

“We had hoped for a person whose life would be an example,” Pilar said in Spanish. “Part of his appeal is that he’s very close to the people.  It’s very easy to understand him.”

Pope Francis is expected to attend World Youth Day later this year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  His predecessor Pope Benedict attended the last summit in 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  So, Brazilian native Maria Augusta had multiple reasons to display her country’s flag Tuesday morning.  She wanted to welcome the newly installed pope to Brazil, and pay homage to a Jesuit and fellow South American and her country’s first female president.  She hopes Rousseff will continue a long history of Brazil’s close relationship with the Vatican.

“When Pope Benedict left we felt like we were without a father,” said Augusta who arrived in Rome during last week’s conclave. “I wanted to be here and participate in this special moment.”

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2 Responses to “World Leaders Welcome New Pope in Rome”

  1. Dolan
    March 19, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    This is an interesting article. I was given a good sense of the scenes and it’s always good to hear from the people on the ground. A better effort than this: http://coveringreligion.org/2013/03/19/a-pope-for-the-poor/

  2. Kimberly Winston
    March 20, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

    Very nice!

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