Tuesday 16 January 2018

President Higgins greets Pope Francis in Spanish following inauguration mass

Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

POPE Francis sought the prayers of the people of Ireland, as he warmly greeted President Michael D Higgins at the Papal inauguration ceremony.

President Higgins addressed the new Jesuit Pope in Spanish when he clasped his hands at the ceremony which was witnessed by hundreds of thousands of worshippers in the Vatican.

“I send my greetings to the people of Ireland and I ask them for their prayers,” responded Pope Francis in English.

President Higgins, accompanied by his wife Sabina, also thanked the first Latin American to lead the Catholic Church for his St Patrick’s Day message so early in his pontificate, as he wished the nation “peace and prosperity” on the national day.

“On behalf of the Irish people who hold a special affection for the people of South America I want to wish you every success in your vision for the Church,” continued President Higgins in Spanish.

“My wish for you on behalf of the people of Ireland is for the best of health in your mission on behalf of all of humanity.

“I’d like to leave you with a message in my own native language.” As Gaeilge, President Higgins said: “I wish you good health and success in your pontificate and its advocacy on behalf of the poor of our vulnerable planet.”

Mr Higgins represented the State, while Minister for Finance Michael Noonan attended in place of the Government.

Mrs Higgins, dressed in a tailored black coat and wide rimmed hat, stood alongside her husband as he shared the brief exchange with the smiling Pope.

The Jesuit Pope Francis set out his priorities as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, as he urged world leaders and thousands of worshippers to protect the environment, the weakest and the poorest.

Pope Francis (76) thrilled the crowd of up to 200,000 people at the start of the Mass by travelling through the piazza and getting out of his jeep to bless a disabled man.

Before the inaugural Mass got underway, Pope Francis was presented with the fisherman’s ring to symbolise the papacy and a wool stole to mark his role as shepherd of his flock.

Speaking through bursts of spontaneous applause, the Pope spoke of the need to serve one another with love and now allow hatred, envy and pride to “defile our lives”.

"Today amid so much darkness we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others," he said. "To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope, it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds," he said.

After the Mass, Pope Francis stood to greet each of the government delegations, chatting with each one.

From among the delegations from 132 different governments, there were six sovereign rulers, 31 heads of state, three princes and 11 heads of government.

The most controversial head of state proved to be Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, who is subjected to a travel ban by EU countries.

US President Barack Obama had a prior commitment to visit Israel, with vice-president Joe Biden attending in his place.

Others in attendance included German chancellor Angela Merkel, the Argentine president Cristina Fernandex, Taiwanese president Ying-Jeou Ma, prince Albert of Monaco and Bahrain Sheik Abdullah bin Haman bin Isa Alkhalifa.

The Argentine cardinal of Italian descent, Jorge Bergoglio, took the name Pope Francis after he was elected Pope on the Papal conclave’s fifth ballot. He was the first Jesuit and the first from the Americas to be elected to the office in more than a millennium.

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