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Pope Francis observes his first Palm Sunday

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 24th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Pope Francis has celebrated his first Palm Sunday mass in St. Peter's Square. In keeping with his reputation as "the unpredictable pope," he broke away from the expected text of his homily to encourage the faithful to lead simple lives.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis encouraged people to be humble and young at heart, as tens of thousands the devout waved olive branches and palm fronds.

Bursting with 250,000 pilgrims, tourists and Romans, St. Peters Square was full of people eager to join the new pope at the start of solemn Holy Week ceremonies. The observations lead up to Easter Sunday, Christianity's most important day.

Palm Sunday recalls Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. The Gospel also recounts how he was betrayed by one of his apostles and sentenced to death upon the cross.

Francis said Jesus "awakened so many hopes in the heart, above all among humble, simple, poor, forgotten people, those who don't matter in the eyes of the world."

He then told a brief aside about his childhood in Argentina. "My grandmother used to say, 'children, burial shrouds don't have pockets.'" It was a variation of "you can't take it with you."

Since his election on March 13, Francis has put the downtrodden and poor at the center of his mission as pope, keeping with the priorities of his Jesuit tradition. His name is inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, who renounced a life of high living for poverty and simplicity to preach Jesus' message to the poor.

Wearing bright red robes over a white cassock, Pope Francis presided over the mass at an altar sheltered by a white canopy on the steps of St Peter's Basilica.

Cardinals sat on chairs during the ceremony held under hazy skies on a breezy day.

Francis said in his homily that Christian joy "isn't born from possessing a lot of things, but from having met" Jesus, which is the same joy that keeps people young, he said. "From seven to 70, the heart doesn't age" if one is inspired by Christian joy, said the pontiff.

Francis added that he was looking forward to welcoming young people to Rio de Janeiro this coming July for the Catholic Church's World Youth Day, the first foreign trip on the calendar of Francis's new papacy.

The faithful knelt on hard cobblestones paving the square, as Francis knelt on a wooden kneeler at the point in the Gospel that recounts the moment of Jesus' death.

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