World leaders head to Rome for Pope Francis’ inaugural mass


Pope Francis waves before delivering his Angelus prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, March 17, 2013. AP /Gregorio Borgia

VATICAN CITY—World leaders arrived in Rome ahead of an inauguration mass for Pope Francis who receives compatriot President Cristina Kirchner of Argentina on Monday in his first meeting with a head of state.

The first pontiff from Latin America had testy relations with Kirchner when he was Buenos Aires’ archbishop, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, particularly over gay marriage and abortion laws.

The pope has won hearts with his humble style but is haunted by criticism at home for failing to speak out during Argentina’s brutal “Dirty War” when he was head of the country’s Jesuits.

The Vatican has firmly denied claims that he failed to protect two Jesuit priests who were tortured by the 1976-1983 regime, saying that he had in fact protected lives during the dictatorship.

Francis’s reign is already proving ground-breaking with an informal style that is not customary in the Vatican’s austere halls of power.

He has called for a “poor Church for the poor,” has warned cardinals against worldly glories and has said the Church could crumble away “like a sand castle” without spiritual renewal.

The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics will be formally enthroned Tuesday at a mass in St. Peter’s Square, with city authorities preparing for an influx of up to a million people to Rome.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault are among European leaders set to attend, along with EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe flew into Rome on Monday, sidestepping a travel ban that applies to the EU but not to the sovereign Vatican City state.

Mugabe has been widely criticized for human rights abuses in the southern African country he has ruled uninterrupted since 1980.

As he arrived, there was fresh controversy in Zimbabwe over the arrest of four of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s aides and a prominent human rights lawyer.

A practicing Catholic, the 89-year-old Mugabe visited the Vatican previously in 2011 for the beatification of late pope John Paul II.

In 2005, he attended John Paul II’s funeral on a visit that drew controversy after Britain’s Prince Charles shook hands with him.

US Vice President Joe Biden, also a practicing Catholic, arrived late Sunday to represent Washington at the event precipitated by the shock resignation of Francis’ predecessor Benedict XVI.

The pope’s meeting with Kirchner later on Monday will be closely watched as a first diplomatic test.

Upon Bergoglio’s surprise election as pontiff, Kirchner tersely wished him a “fruitful pastoral mission”, noting that he had “tremendous responsibility on his shoulders, seeking justice, equality, brotherhood and peace among mankind.”

Kirchner will meet Francis in his modest apartment in the Vatican residence, Casa Santa Marta, where he was staying as cardinal during the conclave.

He has yet to move into the main papal residence.

The new pope also faces a diplomatic minefield with the planned attendance of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, which sparked an angry response from Beijing.

China, which bitterly opposes any steps that imply recognition of Taiwan by other countries, has also long had strained relations with the Vatican in a dispute about authority over Catholics in the country.

In 2005 Taiwan’s then president Chen Shui-bian attended John Paul II’s funeral.

As expected, Francis is attracting a heavyweight turnout from Latin America, home to two in five of the world’s Catholics, although he has urged his compatriots to save their money and make donations to the poor instead of travelling.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla fighter, arrived in Rome and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto is expected.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera was also in Rome and attended the pope’s first Sunday prayers.

He tweeted that the event had been “very emotional.”

The first meeting between the new leaders of the Catholic and Anglican churches — Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby — will have to wait, however.

Welby will miss the inauguration mass because he will be on a “pilgrimage of prayer” in Britain, his office announced Sunday.

Welby, who wished Pope Francis “every blessing” following his election, will be represented at the ceremony by one of the Anglican world’s leading figures, Archbishop of York John Sentamu.

Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, the Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, will also be on hand, as well as Metropolitan Hilarion, second in the Russian Orthodox hierarchy, the ANSA news agency said.

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  • Mang Teban

    From the Philippines, a congratulatory letter will arrive in Vatican to be handed by the vice president. In that letter, it reads “Sorry, your holiness, I am busy with important concerns in my household. First, I have to please Malaysian prime minister to exert maximum tolerance on the Filipinos. I don’t think that it is his fault because his police and military cannot distinguish between rebels and Filipino migrant workers in Sabah. Secondly, I have to attend to my political coalition rallies. Without me, their chances at the elections will not be that good. So, your holiness, I am sending my vice president because he is with the opposition. Hehe…he will miss a lot of days in campaigning. You know what I mean, do you not?”

  • mxsclxmxn

    I can t come coz you know I just signed the RH Law, hehehe. Txt txt nlng tayo pwde ba?

    • superpilipinas

      he-he-he…that’s why he sent the other guy…he-he-he…

  • done_druff

    Sorry your Holiness…. Tomb Raider just released a new game in X360. Can’t wait to play with Josh this weekend!


    >>>He has called for a “poor Church for the poor,” has warned cardinals against worldly glories and has said the Church could crumble away “like a sand castle” without spiritual renewal.<<<

    MALILINTIKAN ang CBCP! "Well, hindi para sa amin ang menshaeng yan, noh? We are already poor as it is….poor SUV, poor more money, poor more power and poor more authority."

  • superpilipinas


    RC is the strongest. Thanks to the reforms over the years. Now with Pope Francis, the church is even going stronger.

    Pope Francis, Cardinal Tagle, the Vatican, and CBCP …..all awesome. Looking forward to the pope’s visit to the Philippines.

    No amount of negative attacks can bring this solid church down. Not even with the help of liberal media and politicians. They can only make the Church become stronger! He-he-he.

    • GKLer

      If you mean “strongest” as in a worldwide presence.
      RC is only “strong” in Central and South America, parts of Southern Africa, parts of Europe and the Philippines.

      If you mean “strongest” in terms of military power.
      RC used to have an army, today it doesn’t exist – which means it weakened.

      If you mean “strongest” as in number of members.
      Islam has about 1.2 billion members – about the same as Catholics.

      If you mean “strongest” in faith.
      In my opinion extremists who blow themselves up for Allah are even stronger in faith than Catholics. Evolutionists who believe they came from pond slime have even more faith than believers – imagine, they think that Everything = Nothing + Accident + Lots of Time. Believing something fictional as Evolution requires a lot of misplaced faith in the Science of Man.

      If you mean “strongest” in terms of knowledge of their faith.
      Well, Catholics used to burn their bibles and the ones who read them for 600 years (1200AD – 1800AD).

      If you mean “strongest” financially.
      I have no doubt it is strong financially.

      In terms of “awesomeness”.
      I think all those people you mentioned are only human. None of them are God or Christ who can raise the dead, end the world of Satan, and establish the Kingdom of God to liberate all of humanity for all times.

      Sorry, just keeping it real.

      • Kung Tufo Tufo

        Your words is pointless and more toward the negative sides. Satan spirit drives you.

      • foreignerph

        Satan! What about Snow-white and Cinderella? My bible says they really do exist and my bible is more true than yours!

      • GKLer

        Since when did stating facts and truth in the negative?
        That’s a rhetorical question, which requires no answer

        Proverbs 12:17
        Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit.


      • Kung Tufo Tufo

        How many few of you are had the mind of Demon???? Talking the scriptures with hidden satanic mind.

      • GKLer

        2 Timothy 3:16-17
        16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

        Satan lies with deceit, scripture is truth. Can you tell the difference between truth and lie, or are you blinded like many who prefers to adhere to the lies and deceit?

      • Kung Tufo Tufo

        The scriptures is intended for you Demon.

      • GKLer

        No, that’s not true.

        John 5:39-40 (Jesus speaks)
        39 You study[c] the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

      • Kung Tufo Tufo

        Demon is always a Demon how cogent, soft spoken, and knowledgeable he is.

      • GKLer

        You claim and seem to know a lot about demons…but what really matters is how much you know about God and Christ.

        John 17:3
        3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

      • Kung Tufo Tufo

        Somehow the Demons surrender to the Supreme God. But he always there watching you, critical, Judgemental, it is his weapons against anyone who he doesn’t like. He resorted to scriptures as his refuge.

      • GKLer

        Read what you and I have written.

        Aren’t you the one that accuses me of being a demon?
        Did I accuse you of anything? – No.
        Doesn’t that make YOU the one who is judgmental and critical?
        That is a rhetorical question, and requires no answer from you.

        Matthew 7
        7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

      • Kung Tufo Tufo

        You didn’t accused me but you accused my Religion and the Pope. Now, you’re shifting your gear defensively. Sorry Demon you cannot win.

      • foreignerph

        Don’t feed the troll.

      • Filpino

        people who has no FAith in God has other meaning for “strongest”.

    • EC

      You are insulting the new pope lumping him with the CBCP. They’re as different as night and day.

    • politics201138

      Thank you for your comment.

  • freeview

    Sana bawalan mga politiko pumasok sa vatican…

  • foreignerph

    What a waste of CO2!

  • maysayako

    inggit na naman ang mga catholic haters dito! kasi yung lider ng religion (o kulto?) nila e di masyadong pinapansin, mantakin mo mga bigating world leaders aattend! e sa kanila, mga brgy kagawad, konsehal, mayor, tongressman, senador pulpol, lang ang dumadalo at dumadalo lang para makakuha ng boto!

  • Edgardo Mendoza

    king of demon gus2 mag parami ng batang hubo cbcp bishops radical mapia salot sa pinas utak manok

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