VATICAN CITY – With the inauguration of Pope Francis Tuesday, the eyes of the world — focused on the Holy See ever since Pope Benedict XVI announced he would abdicate on Feb. 11 — will now shift elsewhere.
The new pope’s inauguration mass was attended by an estimated 200,000 faithful in St. Peter’s Square. But within a few hours of the mass’ conclusion workers were already dismantling two oversized platforms for television reporters to use for reporting events with the outline of St. Peter’s Basilica in the background.
The Vatican press corps, which swelled in number to more than 5,300 members during the conclave that selected Francis as pope, was already well on its way to contracting back to its normal size of around 400 members.
Tuesday’s inauguration was attended by national delegations from more than 130 countries, including dozens of heads of state, heads of government and monarchs. Among those sighted at the Vatican for the events were U.S. Vice President Joe Biden; Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, president of the pope’s native Argentina; and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.
Also present were leaders of 33 different Christian churches, including patriarchs Karekin II of Armenia and Metropolitan Hilarion of Moscow. Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Sikh delegations were also on hand.
But in keeping with Francis’ low-key and humble image, not a single star of film or music was visible among the invited guests of the Holy See.