By Mark Abrams
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It was a busy day in the Vatican, where hundreds of thousands gathered for the installation mass for Pope Francis, the new leader of the world’s 1.2-billion Roman Catholics.
The heads of state from many nations around the world attended the Mass for Inauguration of the Pontificate of Pope Francis, including the United States.
Veteran Vatican journalist Rocco Palmo, who is based in Philadelphia, says the American delegation was led by Vice President Joe Biden, the first Roman Catholic to hold a high executive office in the U.S. government since the late President John F. Kennedy.
Palmo says there were also some other prominent Catholics among the group.
“The Republican governor of New Mexico – Susanna Martinez; Nancy Pelosi, who’s a very explosive figure in many Catholic circles in this country because of her outspoken support for legal abortion; and John De Gioia, the head of Georgetown University, founded by the Jesuits in 1789, the country’s oldest Catholic college.”
Palmo says in addition to the delegations sent from nations across the world to attend, there were religious leaders from many faiths joining in the celebration.
“We’re going to have huge numbers, much bigger than last time for Pope Benedict, of Jews and Muslims coming. And, you know, one of the new pope’s first actions was to send a message to the chief rabbi of Rome and to invite him, personally, to his installation Mass.”
And, Palmo says, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew the First of Constantinople, the head of the world’s eastern orthodox churches came from Istanbul in Turkey to attend the installation.
Palmo says it’s the first time that’s happened since the split between the eastern and western elements of the church in the year 1059.
Palmo says the pope has set a new tone.
“For the last thousand years, the papacy has not necessarily been affiliated with humility or simplicity, but with opulence, with power. And, if you’re going to take the name Francis, then you’d better live up to it or you’re setting yourself for even more failure than usual under the world’s brightest spotlight.”