Pope Francis celebrates inauguration Mass

Vatican City, Mar 19 (EFE).- Pope Francis celebrated a Mass here Tuesday morning to mark the start of his papacy and afterward waited inside St. Peter's Basilica to receive the dozens of government delegations present for the inauguration ceremony.

After praying before an image of the Virgin and bidding farewell to the estimated 200,000 people who had gathered for the occasion, the pope left St. Peter's Square amid applause and the waving of flags.

Francis went to the sacristy of the chapel where Michelangelo's Pieta is located to remove his liturgical vestments.

He then moved to the Main Altar in the center of the basilica to greet each of the 132 official delegations who had attended the inauguration.

The dignitaries included Spanish Crown Prince Felipe and his wife, Letizia, and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, who as the head of state of the homeland of the new pope - the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires - was at the head of the country delegations.

The presidents of Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Italy, Mexico, Panama and Portugal also greeted the pontiff inside St. Peter's Basilica.

Also in attendance for the inauguration were Spain's prime minister, the German chancellor, the vice presidents of Cuba, Nicaragua, the United States and Venezuela, the French prime minister, the wives of the presidents of El Salvador and the Dominican Republic and the foreign ministers of Colombia, Guatemala and Peru.

On Wednesday, the pope will greet more than a score of delegations representing other Christian churches who attended the ceremony, which lasted just over two and a half hours.

Prior to the Mass, Pope Francis received the fisherman's ring and the lambs' wool pallium symbolizing his ministry as the 266th pope.

In his homily, the first Jesuit and the first Latin American to reach the papacy told the faithful that "authentic power is service, and that the pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service."

He referred to Joseph's role as "protector" of Mary and Jesus and said that mission extends to all human beings.

"It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as St. Francis of Assisi showed us," the pope said.

The pontiff chose to name himself after that Italian founder of the Franciscan Order, who lived in the 12th and 13th centuries and is known for renouncing wealth and for his love of animals and nature.