Staten Islanders celebrate Pope Francis at St. Joseph's Day masses

Maura Grunlund

Staten Island Advance - Staten Island, NY

March 19, 2013

Excerpts from original article...

Roman Catholic Staten Islanders from here to Rome are celebrating the inaugural mass of the first Pope Francis on the Feast Day of St. Joseph, the patron of the church.

...Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), sent a letter to Pope Francis expressing the support and fidelity of the U.S. bishops, on behalf of more than 70 million Catholics throughout the 195 dioceses and eparchies in the country.

"Since your election as Roman Pontiff on March 13, the Church in our country has felt a renewed sense of unity, hope and love of Jesus Christ and His Church," Dolan wrote.

The first Latin American and Jesuit pope was surrounded at the mass in Rome not only by 250 Catholic bishops and 1,200 priest and seminarians but by representatives of other Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths and delegations from many countries, including one from the United States led by Vice President Joe Biden. People traveled from over 132 countries around the world, including six sovereigns, three crown princes, 31 heads of state, 11 heads of government, according to the Vatican.

...The former archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, who had told his countrymen and women to stay home from the mass and instead give money to the poor, called his homeland early in the morning and in a phone call broadcast in Plaza de Mayo, repeated the words of Blessed John Paul II, saying "Do not be afraid."

...The new pope, who has a reputation for punctuality, arrived early at the square in a Jeep, and, in keeping with his pastoral approach, took the time to hold a baby and greet a disabled man prior to taking his first official trip around the square in the popemobile.

From Priests for Life in New Dorp, Bob Lalonde, international director, and Jerry Horn, senor vice president, were at St Peter's Square by 4:30 a.m., two hours before it was opened to the public and five hours before the mass began at 9:30 a.m.

"The crowd not only filled the square but also spilled over to cover the whole main road leading to the Vatican," Lalonde said of the Via della Conciliazione in an e-mail to the Advance.

"The occasion was both jubilant with people waving their country flags and solemn for the Mass itself. Great joy on the peoples faces. The languages were mostly Latin, Italian and Greek."

The new pope also received the gold-plated silver Fisherman's Ring on Francis, which bears the image of St. Peter, the first pope. Pope Francis is the 266th pope and the 265th successor of St. Peter.

"The running theme these days is Pope Francis' simplicity, and it showed in a briefer than usual Mass -- only two hours -- which is short by Vatican major liturgy standards," said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of communications for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in her blog from Rome.

"The brevity was achieved in part by cutting out the offertory procession and having a representative group of cardinals -- six -- instead of all go forth to pledge allegiance to the pope. (They'd all already done that the night of Pope Francis' election.)

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