In his homily, or sermon, which always follows the reading of a passage from one of the four Gospels in a Catholic Mass, Pope Francis issued an appeal for the protection of the poor and the world environment. He told the crowd of thousands gathered in the Vatican he would like "to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill. Let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment."
In addition, he said, "We must not be afraid of goodness or even of tenderness."
A formal procession to the steps of St. Peter's Basilica was followed by the formal presentation to Francis of the 'pallium' - a lamb's wool scarf symbolizing Jesus as the good shepherd; and the fisherman's ring - a specially-cast, gold-plated silver symbol of St. Peter's role as a fisherman.
Before the ceremony began, people of all ages, nationalities, races and conditions - from babies and small children to elderly and severely handicapped being helped along by others - spilled into St. Peter's Square as the space opened up on a first-come, first-served basis prior to the papal installation and Mass.
According to NBC Network corespondents, the Pope's comments were met with ripples of applause, along with tears in the eyes of the faithful when he spoke of humility and the need for advocacy on behalf of the poor. "Let us never forget that authentic power is service," he said. "Only those who serve with love are able to protect."
Further elaborating, the Holy Father said, "Protection is respecting each of God's creatures and respecting the environment in which we live, the pope said, further defining it this way: "It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who areoften the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our familites. Husbands and wives must first protect one another, and then as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time protect their parents. It means bullding sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection,and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God's gifts."
In addition, the pope cautioned, "One should never confuse simplicity and humility with weakness."
Vatican chief spokesperson, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, estimated the crowd in St. Peter's Square this morning to number more than 150,000 people. Reported by Claudio Lavanga and Alastair Jamieson, NBC News.