By Sister Mary Ann Walsh
A bone-chilling day in Rome did not stop 150,000 people from overflowing St. Peter’s Square for the first Sunday Angelus address of Pope Francis.
Don Clemmer and I strolled down to the square after 11:30 a.m. for the noon address. The mass of people stunned us. The Sunday Angelus always draws a crowd and can fill the square on days like Easter, but the overflow pouring down the wide Via Conciliatione that leads into the Square caught us by surprise. We stood in the broad boulevard and could see Pope Francis on a big screen erected nearby. The crowd was pleasant and chanted “Francesco, Francesco, Francesco,” using the Italian form of Francis.
The simple, yet profound messages that characterize this pope continue.
“A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just,” he said from his apartment window overlooking the Square. The theme echoed his homily at Mass earlier in the nearby Santa Anna Church, just inside the Vatican gates. At Mass where the Gospel was about the woman caught in adultery, the pope said sometimes we can be like people wanting to stone the sinner.
“I think we even are sometimes like these people, who on the one hand want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand sometimes we like to stone others and condemn others. The message of Jesus is this: mercy.”
For me, Sundays in Rome have always meant Mass, the Angelus and Sunday dinner. After the noonday greeting I inched my way through the crowd to the home of longtime friend Marjorie Weeke, who for many years worked at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. We went to nearby Da Roberto’s on Borgo Pio and were joined for dessert by Wendy Granato of Houston’s ABC 13. Houston media are following Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, and Wendy was still happy about her interview with Cardinal DiNardo the night the pope was elected.
Marjorie’s son Stephen is working as a producer for NBC News for the papal transition. Usually he spends his time in the San Francisco area. Today he was in Assisi with Maria Shriver, who is working on a TV special. Stephen grew up in Rome so knows his way around town better than most.
I attended Mass at the North American College this morning. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago was the main celebrant and concelebrants included Cardinal DiNardo and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston. Visitors at the seminary liturgy included Manya Brachear of the Chicago Tribune, faithfully following Cardinal George.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh is media relations director for the USCCB.