Catholic Church

Catholics pray for Pope Francis at first Sunday mass since inauguration

Church-goers at Central's historic cathedral depart from practice to wish their pontiff well

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 6:55am

Hundreds of local Catholics prayed for their new pontiff yesterday in the first Sunday mass at Hong Kong's historic cathedral in Central since Pope Francis took the helm of the Vatican a week ago.

At the beginning of the Holy Week leading to Easter, worshippers at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Caine Road held palm leaves, as was the practice on Passion Sunday. But in a departure from tradition, they also followed the lead of the Reverend Michael Cuddigan at the English session of the mass to pray for the new pope.

"We pray for our beloved Pope Francis. May the Lord lead him to administrate the church," the priest said.

On March 13, Pope Francis, 76, was elected by a 115-strong conclave to replace pope Benedict, who stunned the world last month by announcing his resignation due to his advanced age.

The Argentinian Pope Francis is the first pontiff from the Americas and also the first from a continent other than Europe in almost 1,300 years since the Syrian pope Gregory III in the 8th century.

At his inauguration ceremony on Tuesday, the pope met with cheers and support from nearly 200,000 pilgrims on St Peter's Square.

In Hong Kong, Catholics expressed their support but also shared concerns that their well-received pope might face difficulty in executing his duties.

"He started at a huge high. It's very hard for him to sustain his high popularity," worshipper Isabel McCormick said.

"There are too many demands on him. He's good enough to lead everyone, but … he's just human," she said.

Another Catholic chimed in: "He's very humble. He prayed side by side with the old pope [on Saturday]. But the scandals in the church may be his challenges ahead. The church has to evolve to deal with them."

The diocese of Hong Kong has scheduled a mass to welcome Pope Francis officially as head of the Catholic Church on April 8.

The celebrant will be the bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal John Tong Hon, who is the first and only Chinese cardinal to have voted in a conclave.