Voices from St. Peter's Square
Canadians and others from around the world gather to honour Pope Francis
Sister Vivien is a member of the Vocationist Sisters in Nigeria, studying in Rome for two years.
"It’s one of the experiences we’ve longed to see in our own time. What the Pope said in his message, the very simplicity of his ways and his trust and confidence, his humility — there’s a sense of paternity, like a father, he’s filled with love and spirit and for me it’s like a child to learn from the ways of a father," she said.
Bonnie Vadacchino brought her grandchildren Elizabeth Vadacchino, 11, and Zachary Heil, 13, to Rome for the Pope’s first mass on Sunday and today’s inauguration. The Welland, Ont., resident chose two grandchildren and booked the tickets as soon as she saw the white smoke last week, even before the new Pope was introduced.
"It’s a momentous occasion, and we had to come now. It’s something — seize the moment, live when you can, and that’s what we’re doing," she said. "I hope this moment today will inspire them to continue on as children of God and take it with them into their adulthood. That’s my wish for my grandchildren, that they will live their faith, live it well and bring it on to others."
Elizabeth and her cousin Zachary were standing at the barricades when Pope Francis went by before the mass began.
"It’s pretty amazing to see that and be here in person rather than being home and watching it on TV. Not many people are going to be able to say they’ve done this," Elizabeth said.
"I’m getting confirmed next month, and it really means a lot to be able to see the person who’s in charge of our faith," Zachary added.
Mariano Tomadis and his wife Maria Dechiara came all the way from Buenos Aires for today’s inaugural mass. They were at St. Peter’s Square by 6 a.m. to get a good spot.
"By far, this is the most significant event for Argentina. It is extremely unusual that we have a person in a very relevant position in the world," Tomadis said.
"Papa Francesco is in this position for being a holy person. We hope that this will be a message for the world. We hope that he brings a new fresh air to the Catholic Church."
Toronto Cardinal Tom Collins said one of the most moving moments for him was at the very beginning of the mass.
"We were all standing around the tomb of Peter, and the Holy Father went down to pray. Here he is, the successor of Peter, and he was surrounded by the leaders of the various Catholic churches … for example the Ukrainian Catholic Church, and they were all there together. What a beautiful experience it was," he said.
"We always feel joyful when we have a pope, because he’s the successor of Peter, but popes come and go, lay people come and go, same as priests and bishops and cardinals. The faith is one, the faith continues, we’re simply part of a reality that is far greater than any one of us. That’s our great joy."
Pablo Maryn and Ignathio Fernandes are in Rome with a school group from Barcelona.
"It is an important moment in history, and the opportunity to be here is important. If we were here in Roma and didn’t see the Papa, we are lazy. I’m impressed because I hear how excited the people are [but] I don’t know if it will change me at all," Maryn said.
"It is time for a new pope, he is special, but this [the mass] is a little boring, because we are 16 and we like to go out," added Fernandes.
Father Carlos Martins, of Toronto, came to Rome for a conference this morning and went straight from airport to St. Peter’s Square to see the mass.
"I think this is the choice of the Holy Spirit and I think he’s going to be a wonderful Pope for the Church. I hope he takes it [the Church] to the heart of the gospel. He’s a man coming from a very evangelistic outlook to his ministry so he’s taken Christ to the marketplace, to the subway, to the buses, that’s part of his nature. The cardinals have recognized that, they see him as a pastor of souls," he said.
Martins said he is personally inspired by Pope Francis’ humility and joyfulness. "This is a simple man. He’s got one motive —the Gospel."
Jason Kenney, Canada’s multiculturalism minister, said he was honored to be up near the altar with Governor General David Johnston and other dignitaries and heads of state.
Pope Francis is "a man of great authenticity. As a Jesuit and a scholar, he is a complicated man with deep intellect, but what he conveys is spiritual simplicity, and he’s very grounded. He’s not overwhelmed by his office, he’s trying to project a real spiritual message in his position," he said.
As a Roman Catholic, Kenney said one of the things that touched him personally was the presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
"This is the first time in 1,000 years that a patriarch of the eastern Christianity was at the installation of a Roman pope. This was an historic rapprochement between east and west which have been divided for a millennium."
While Pope Francis is concentrating on his spiritual role, Kenney said he also has a more managerial job and a mandate to reform the governance of the Vatican.
"Like any new leader of an organization, the first responsibility is personnel. Personnel is policy, so who he chooses to head the various departments of the Vatican, the curial departments will reflect where he intends to take the church," Kenney said, adding he expects Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet will play some role in the new structure.
"Here’s a man from a small village in Northern Quebec who is now regarded one of the global leaders of a spiritual community of 1.2 billion people, highly regarded for his intellect and integrity and as a Canadian, I’m proud of that."