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Pope to preside over first Good Friday

Pope Francis was to preside over his first Good Friday after washing the feet of 12 young prisoners, updating an ancient Easter ritual as part of his efforts to bring the Catholic Church closer to the needy. The new pontiff is due to recite the Passion of Christ -- the story of the last hours of Jesus's life -- in St Peter's Basilica on Friday, before leading the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) ceremony by the Colosseum, where thousands of Christians are believed to have been killed in Roman times.

Pope Francis trinkets sell briskly near Vatican

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Less than 48 hours after his surprise election, Pope Francis's smiling face adorns pendants and devotional souvenir cards packaged with rosaries at the trinket stands near St. Peter's Square. Small plastic bags containing a picture of Francis and a rosary - a string of prayer beads - were selling for 7 euros (5.96 pounds) at Antonio Cardone's stand and postcards showing the new pontiff were selling briskly at 50 cents.

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.

CORRECTED: Taiwan row a first diplomatic test for Pope Francis

China's angry reaction to Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's attendance at the inauguration of Pope Francis on Tuesday is the first taste of a long-running dispute that the new Argentine pontiff may have unique qualities to grapple with. China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying has called on the Vatican -- one of only 23 sovereign states in the world that recognise Taipei instead of Beijing -- to sever diplomatic ties with the island The Vatican should "recognise the Chinese government as the sole legal representative of all China," the spokeswoman said on Sunday.

Pope Francis shakes up Vatican fashion with humble style

Solid gold rings velvet capes and ermine furs are out, humility is in: Pope Francis has shunned Vatican tradition in favour of a simpler style -- and perhaps committed a clerical fashion faux pas in the process. From the moment he stepped out in plain papal whites to wave to the crowds from the balcony of St Peter's Basilica, the difference between the Argentinian pontiff and his rite-loving predecessor, Benedict XVI, was startling clear.

Pope Francis eschews tradition with silver ring

Pope Francis has eschewed tradition and chosen a silver Fisherman's Ring rather than a gold one -- and one designed decades ago rather than created specifically for him, the Vatican said Monday. The gold-plated silver ring, one of the papal symbols that the new pope will receive during the inauguration mass on Tuesday, is modelled on a ring designed by Italian sculptor Enrico Manfrini, who died in 2004, for Paul VI.

Pope Francis holds first Angelus prayer

Vatican City, Mar 17 (EFE) - Pope Francis told the approximately 300,000 people who gathered Sunday in St. Peter's Square for his first Angelus prayer that God "never tires" of forgiving. "If God did not forgive us all, the world would not exist," the pope told the crowd in Italian during the 15-minute prayer. The pontiff asked the crowd to accompany him and pray for him, repeating the message he delivered on March 13 after being elected the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Francis reflected on Sunday's Gospel reading, which was about forgiveness.

'Pray for me', pope urges at first Angelus

Pope Francis appeared before more than 100,000 people massed in St Peter's Square on Sunday for his first Angelus prayer and asked the faithful to pray for him. "Thank you for your welcome, and for your prayers," the first pope from Latin America said from a window of the papal apartment high above the square. "Pray for me," he added. Dozens of flags from Francis's native Argentina were waving in the crowd as the former cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio recited the traditional Sunday Angelus prayer, the first of his papacy.

Pope Francis hailed, urged to work for peace

World leaders and Catholics hailed the election of Jorge Bergoglio from Argentina as the first Latin American pope on Wednesday, urging him to work for religious reconciliation and peace. US President Barack Obama and Argentine leader Cristina Kirchner led congratulations from across the Americas, where Roman Catholics rejoiced that one of their own will lead the church's 1.2-billion-strong flock.

Catholic Church's last 10 popes

Each of the 10 popes who preceded Francis had a claim on a unique spot in the 2,000-year history of the Roman Catholic Church. Here is a summary: Benedict XVI (2005-13), born Joseph Ratzinger, will go down in history as the first pope in the modern era to resign voluntarily. The German theologian who enforced Church doctrine for a quarter-century before his election aged 78 picked up the baton of doctrinal purity wielded by his predecessor John Paul II. But his eight-year rule was marred by a raft of gaffes, scandals and insider intrigues.
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