SALT LAKE CITY — On the same day that Pope Francis was inaugurated as the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, some 500 Utah Catholics and their friends and neighbors gathered to ask God to “look with favor on Francis the pope.”
“Be with our Holy Father as he begins his pontificate,” said the Very Rev. John C. Wester, Catholic bishop of Salt Lake City, during his benediction for the noon mass on Tuesday. “May he lead us in the ways of faith.”
In a very simple and warm homily that was aimed at the large number of children who attended the service, during which the Madeleine Choir School’s Founders Day was also celebrated, Bishop Wester talked about the “intimate, loving relationship” the new pope seems to have with God.
“Already, he is communicating his trust in God,” Bishop Wester said. “It is clear that God is at the center of his life. His closeness to God is palpable. His love of God is palpable.”
So, too, is his love for the poor and needy of the world, said the bishop.
“And not just the homeless — although certainly for them,” he said. “But all who are poor in any way — and we are all poor in some way. People in all walks of life, including those who have been pushed aside, he reaches out to them and welcomes them.”
The mass was held on St. Joseph’s Day, during which Catholics honor the life and sainthood of Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary. Bishop Wester said the two men — St. Joseph and Pope Francis — shared the virtue of being willing to respond to God’s call when it came.
“St. Joseph had a huge part to play in what Jesus thought about God,” Bishop Wester said. He referred to the Gospel of St. Mark, in which Jesus refers to God using the term “Abba Father,” which the bishop said is an Aramaic way of saying “Daddy.”
“This is the image Jesus had of God — a very intimate, very tender image — and St. Joseph helped him create that image,” Bishop Wester said. “Pope Francis seems to have that same image, and he is displaying it already.”
Following the mass, Bishop Wester told KSL’s Sam Penrod that the special celebration was “a way for our local Catholics and friends, brothers and sisters, to come and celebrate with us our new Holy Father.”
“We can’t all fly to Rome (for the pope’s inaugural mass),” he said, “so it’s nice to do something locally and to pray for the pope as he begins his new ministry.”