March 19th, 2013
06:06 AM ET

Thousands pack St. Peter's Square for Pope Francis' inauguration

By Hada Messia and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

Rome (CNN) - Through a square bustling with tourists, locals, pilgrims and dignitaries, Pope Francis made his way atop an open-top vehicle on Tuesday en route to a Mass that will officially inaugurate him Bishop of Rome.

He wore the simple iron cross he wore as a cardinal and which he had on when he first appeared to the world as pope.

When the gathered faithful at St. Peter's Square held up babies and young children for him to kiss, he obliged.

He also stepped out of his sports utility vehicle to kiss the head of a man with a physical disability.

Even though at least a dozen security officers in suits walked alongside the SUV as he circled the square, his decision to bypass the Popemobile, which his last two predecessors used, was telling.

The Mercedes Benz G-Class SUV afforded him the kind of direct contact with people he has embraced since becoming pope.

Had he been in the Popemobile, he would have been behind bulletproof glass, which was installed in 1981 after an assassination attempt on John Paul II.

The ceremony - the "Mass inaugurating the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome" - will be short in keeping with the spirit of simplicity embraced by the new Holy Father, the Vatican has said, lasting about two hours.

Francis has already made an impression as a pope of the people, who is concerned about the welfare of the poor. But he inherits a church wracked by a decades-old sexual abuse scandal and claims of corruption in the clergy.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis • Vatican

CNN Poll: American Catholics approve of new pope
March 19th, 2013
05:55 AM ET

CNN Poll: American Catholics approve of new pope

Washington (CNN) – American Catholics are very enthusiastic about the choice of Pope Francis to head the Roman Catholic Church, according to a new national survey.

But a CNN/ORC International survey also indicates that you shouldn't expect them to pay any more attention to the new pope's teachings on issues like birth control than they paid to his predecessors.

"Pope Francis is starting off with a huge reservoir of goodwill in the U.S. Eighty-eight percent of American Catholics questioned in our survey approve of his selection as pope," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

By contrast, an ABC News/Washington Post poll in April, 2005, found only 60% of Americans Catholics approved of the selection of Pope Benedict, the predecessor to Francis.

The new poll's release comes as Francis, known until his election as pope last week as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, is inaugurated Tuesday at a ceremony at the Vatican.

While they support his election as pope, nearly three-quarters of American Catholics say they are more likely to follow their own conscience on difficult moral questions than the teachings of the pope.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Pope Francis

March 19th, 2013
05:50 AM ET

Pope's sister prayed he wouldn't be picked; now she's proud, from afar

By Jose Manuel Rodriguez and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN

Buenos Aires (CNN) - Maria Elena Bergoglio was in her home west of Buenos Aires last week when she heard the shocking news: Jorge Mario Bergoglio - her brother - was the new pope.

In the past, she had prayed that the cardinals wouldn't pick him.

"During the previous conclave, I was praying for him not to be elected ... because I didn't want my brother to leave," she told CNN en Español on Monday. "It's a position that was a little selfish."

But this time around, Bergoglio said she changed her tone.

"I prayed that the Holy Spirit would intervene and not listen to me. And it didn't listen to me," she said, laughing. "It did what it wanted."

Last week, soon after the white smoke billowed out from the Sistine Chapel chimney, she heard her brother's voice crackling through the telephone line.

"I almost died," she said. "The telephone rang and my son answered. I heard him say, 'ooooh, God.' I couldn't believe it."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Pope Francis

About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.

March 2013