ROME — Pope Francis was formally installed as bishop of Rome on Sunday in a ceremony characterized by more simplicity than the usual ritual and pomp enjoyed by papal predecessors taking up their pastoral duties.
In yet another sign that Francis sees his mission as pontiff as one of humble service, he used his arrival at St. John in Lateran Basilica to honor a past pope who remains wildly popular in Rome. Francis arrived a half-hour early to bless a plaque renaming a corner of the piazza outside the church after Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005.
Francis applauded, then gave his blessing after Rome’s mayor unveiled the simple white stone plaque marking “Giovanni Paul II Square” in a section of the vast piazza, which often hosts free rock concerts and political and labor rallies.
The two-hour-long, early evening installation ceremony was a significant one for the church, since a pope is pontiff because he is elected bishop of Rome, and not vice versa. Right after his election on March 13 as the church’s first pope from Latin America, Francis made clear he would relish his pastoral role as the city’s bishop.