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Full text of Pope Francis’s inauguration homily

By on Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Pope Francis's inaugural Mass in St Peter's Square (Photo: PA)

Pope Francis's inaugural Mass in St Peter's Square (Photo: PA)

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of St Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.

I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other churches and ecclesial communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.

In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1).

How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.

How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!

The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.

Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!

Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!

In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. 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; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.

To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!

I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.

  • Omosh

    Lets protect those things that God has blessed us with….

  • Irene Curran

    Wonderful message. May St Francis walk with him and guide his way.

  • kathleen

    And let us protect the UNBORN, surely the most vulnerable of all our ‘brothers and sisters’ that Pope Francis mentions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.brown.735 Pat Brown

    God Bless….Wonderful ..Amen x

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexander.luciesmith Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Wonderful sermon, wonderful message. I feel inspired.

  • Patty

    Very inspiring, I will pray for our new Pope and ask God to protect him and his ministry.

  • StephenHough

    It couldn’t be a lovelier sermon!

  • Eslöv

    Yes this man is prophet. God has sent pope Francis to console us. to show us his tender love. I will always pray for our new pope

  • Eslöv

    Thank you God for giving us this awesome Pope. His is authentic. God bless him for ever. amen

  • http://www.facebook.com/frances.picart Frances LB Picart

    Amen! We pray that Mother Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis intercede to our Abba Father that the Holy Spirit may accompany Pope Francis’ ministry through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

  • pio

    What a powerful Homily! so inspiring and challenging all of us to act.

  • Benedict Carter

    Fine words, I liked this sermon.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    We have had three exceptional Popes in a row — Popes John Paul I, Blessed John Paul II, and HH Benedict XVI Emeritus.

    Pope Francis may in *some* ways compare oddly to these three — but on the other hand, his simple normalcy is refreshing, comforting, delightful, and wholly orthodox whilst being at the same time both straightforward and normal.

  • jferioli3

    you know it is from God if the person, words, actions transcends all lines and boxes humans use to divide. God Bless the Pope!

  • Emilio Munguambe

    Excelente

  • Emilio Munguambe

    Excellent speach

  • GF

    Superb sermon. I am very touched and inspired — a powerful message. God bless you, Pope Francis!

  • joy

    let us protect our marriages what it means from the beginning.

  • Peter

    It is scandalous that only a relative few of humanity have nourishment, healthcare, shelter, security and freedom, while the majority lack them in varying degrees. The human race is crying out for justice.

    The Pontificate is the only position on earth which has the global reach and authority to bring this scandal to the forefront so that the world sits up and listens.

    And Pope Francis is using his pontificate to do just that, to emphasise the poorest, the weakest and the least important, which he did not only verbally but also physically in his sermon.

    Spiritual renewal in the declining West can only be achieved if it adopts a radical Catholic approach to alleviating the plight of the poorest, the weakest and the least important.

    Diocese and parishes must be fired up with renewed energy to help their brethren in less fortunate parts of the world. Only by expressing a deep solidarity with their suffering brothers and sisters elsewhere can they truly call themselves Catholics.

    A solution to the scandal of injustice is long overdue and Pope Francis is the man to start the ball rolling globally.

  • Carlos McGuiggan

    Haleluiah! Let all the heavens sing for our new pope Benedict!

  • Carlos McGuiggan

    I was there and I feel blessed!

  • DC. KABASO PATRICK

    very good homily. the catholic church is in safe hands

  • idahmussy

    Wonderful’ challenging – faith in action is love and love in action is truly service that’s what the Holy Father is teaching. Amen and Amen!

  • Joygerm Joan E. White, Syracu

    Here he is Lord. Pope Francis comes to do your will. May I follow; may we all seek to be
    faithful followers and live our lives in the Light of the Lord. Wow. Alleluia. Amen!

  • Frank Pinto

    I agree with you and let make this world a beautiful place to live.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    “……that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me!” Amen.

    Wonderful.

    Most Holy Spirit of Jesus Our Lord,

    Be the the Guide, Protector and Director of Our New Pope Francis in all his undertakings. Make him feel and experience your presence everywhere.

    Work with Pope Francis and open up possibilities for him to be a TRUE APOSTLE in our own times so that like the 12 Apostles of Our Lord, whom you guided, Protected and Directed, he may loudly proclaim the WORD of Christ Our Lord everywhere accompanied by the signs and wonders of the KINGDOM which Jesus the Lord brought to our earth.

    May our Pope be an example and inspiration to all of us to be APOSTLES in our own places all through our earthly days.

    Thank you Lord, Praise you Lord, we adore you most Holy Lord.

    Mary Mystical Rose of God, Pray for our Pope, God’s Saints and Angels pray for us all.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • Mrs R.A.Babalola

    Holy Father,The Peace of the LORD be with u and the whole world.Amen. From your first appearance at the Vatican Balcony,you taught the world Simplicity,Humility,the need to PRAY,and importance of SILENCE. In this beautiful Homily, you reminded the world to LOVE ONE ANOTHER- the greatest commandment of OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. THANKS. I hope and pray that the world will have Mother Mary and St. Joseph as role models.Pls. pray for us so that THE HOLY SPIRIT will assist us to walk with JESUS,Build with JESUS and to evangelise HIS GOOD NEWS as you are doing.
    The LORD is with and your MInistry.HIS WILL will be done in your life.
    I love to Kiss your ring and shake your hand.! PEACE.