New pope talks courage on first day

Updated 10:30 PM EDT, Thu March 14, 2013

Story highlights

NEW: Alleged victim of clerical sexual abuse urges pope to give Catholics new hope

Francis urges courage in moving the Catholic Church forward

Group representing priest abuse victims requests a meeting with Pope Francis

Vatican says the new pope had part of a lung removed in his youth but is in good health

Read more coverage around the new pope in Spanish at

(CNN) —  

Pope Francis on Thursday emphasized church advancement in his first Mass with the cardinals who elected him pontiff a day earlier.

With solemnity, he delivered a homily about moving the Catholic Church forward to the cardinal electors, who were dressed in light yellow robes. Altar servers burned incense in the Sistine Chapel, the setting for the Mass.

Speaking in Italian, Francis didn’t use a script and kept the sermon short, calling on the cardinals to have courage.

“When we don’t walk, we are stuck. When we don’t build on the rock, what happens? It’s what happens to children when they build a sand castle and it all then falls down,” the new pontiff said.

“When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we confess without the cross, we are not disciples of Christ. We are mundane,” he said. “We are all but disciples of our Lord.

“I would like for all of us, after these days of grace, that we find courage to walk in the presence of God … and to build the church with the blood of Christ,” the pope continued. “Only this way will the church move forward.”

During the service, the cardinals prayed for the new pope and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI so “that he may serve the Church while hidden to the world, in a life dedicated to prayer and meditation,” the Vatican said.

When Jorge Bergoglio stepped onto the balcony at the Vatican on Wednesday evening to reveal himself as the new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, he made history as the first non-European pope of the modern era, the first from Latin America, the first Jesuit and the first to assume the name Francis.

Francis began Thursday by praying at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, a place of special significance for the Jesuits.

What do you think about the new pope? Tell us.

His next public appearance is likely to be Sunday. The new pontiff will “very probably” celebrate Mass at St. Peter’s and then deliver the traditional Angelus blessing, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman.

But it won’t be until Tuesday that Francis will be formally installed as pope.

That’s by design. The day coincides with the Feast of St. Joseph, the patron saint of Italy.

In a letter dated Wednesday to Rome’s chief rabbi, the new pope promised “renovated cooperation” between Catholics and Jews.

“I vividly hope I’ll contribute to the progress” of relations between Jewish and Catholic people that they “have known starting from the Vatican II Council” in the 1960s, Francis wrote to Riccardo Di Segni.

The new pope said he was also acting in a spirit of “helping the world to be always more in harmony with the will of the Creator.”

First Latin American pope ‘very exciting’

The new pontiff will meet with all the cardinals, not just those who were eligible to vote for him, on Friday and will hold an audience with the media on Saturday, Lombardi said.

Already, a picture is emerging of a humble man who shies away from the trappings of his new status and is devoted to his pastoral duties.

As pope, Francis will have plenty to deal with. He takes the helm of a Roman Catholic Church that has been rocked in recent years by sex abuse by priests, and claims of corruption and infighting among the church hierarchy.

Reflecting the urgency of those concerns, a group representing the alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests has written an open letter to Francis requesting a meeting.

“Your predecessor met only a few times with a few carefully chosen victims in tightly choreographed settings, as he visited nations where this crisis had reached a fever pitch,” the letter from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests states.

“We write today seeking a different kind of meeting – one in which our respective organizations – yours, huge and struggling, and ours, small and struggling – can begin to work together to safeguard children across the globe.”

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, one alleged victim of priest sex abuse, Michael Duran, urged Pope Francis to give Catholics new hope and make priests and cardinals accountable for their actions in cases where children have been sexually abused by clergymen.

Duran said he was sexually abused for three years by a Los Angeles Archdiocese priest beginning in 1983, when Duran was 11.

He and three other men allegedly sexually abused as boys by the same priest settled their lawsuits for $9.9 million against the archdiocese, Cardinal Roger Mahony and the now defrocked priest. Mahony was among the 115 cardinals in Rome who participated in the papal election this week.

Duran said he felt vindicated by the settlement. He and his attorney said authorities should investigate Mahony for his handling of child abuse complaints against the former priest, Michael Baker. The priest, who couldn’t be reached for comment, served a prison sentence for molesting boys, Duran’s attorneys said.

Conservative reformer

The 76-year-old leader, who served as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, is the first pope to take the name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, revered among Catholics for his work with the poor.

The pontiff is considered a straight shooter who calls things as he sees them, and a follower of the church’s most social conservative wing.

He was runner-up in the 2005 papal conclave, behind then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The new pope brings together the first and the developing worlds. Latin America is home to 480 million Catholics.

Francis’ first public appearance as pope – when he appealed for the crowds to pray for him before he gave a blessing – suggested a “different pastoral style” in comparison with the more academic approach of Benedict, said Lombardi.

Francis is someone who has had “a day-to-day link with the population and ordinary people” during his many years at the head of a large diocese in Buenos Aires, he said.

He also sought to dampen concerns prompted by media reports that the new pope has only one lung.

Although Francis had part of one lung removed when he was a young man, the whole lung was not removed and the new pope is in good health, Lombardi said.

CNN iReporter Cesar Sotolongo in Lima, Peru, said the election of a Latin American pope, particularly from the Jesuit order, marked “a new chapter” for the Catholic Church.

Originally from Florida, Sotolongo also has his own advice for Francis: “The pope should shape the church with what he has been doing during his career (as an example),” he said. “Stay in contact with the people, communicate clearly, promote the unification of faith and … represent the word of Jesus.”

A Jesuit pope

Born in Buenos Aires to an Italian immigrant father, Francis is known for his simplicity.

Details given by Lombardi on Thursday of Francis’ first hours as pope reinforce that impression – one which may go down well with his global flock, many of whom live in poverty or are feeling the squeeze of austerity.

Francis stood, rather than sitting on a throne, to receive the oath of allegiance from his fellow cardinals after his election, and for his appearance on the balcony wore just a white cassock and a simple cross, eschewing gold or jewels, Lombardi said.

Also, on the ride back from the Sistine Chapel to the Santa Marta residence, he declined the papal car that had been prepared for him and instead took the bus with other cardinals, Lombardi said.

A Jesuit’s take: What it means for Francis to become pope

And Francis thanked the other cardinals at dinner, joking, “May God forgive you for what you have done,” Lombardi said.

Francis will remove the seals from the official papal apartments Thursday but will not move in until renovations are complete, he added. The new pontiff will live in a suite at the Santa Marta residence until the papal apartments are ready.