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In first Mass as pontiff, Pope Francis delivers informal homily

Newly elected Pope Francis led a mass with cardinals at the Sistine Chapel on Thursday.

Vatican CTV/REUTERS

Newly elected Pope Francis led a mass with cardinals at the Sistine Chapel on Thursday.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — In his first Mass as pontiff, Pope Francis has displayed his informal style as a pastor. He delivered an off-the-cuff homily in the Sistine Chapel today about the need to walk with God, build up his church and confess. He referred at one point to children building sand castles on the beach.

It was a far simpler message than the three-page discourse delivered in Latin by his predecessor, Pope Benedict, during his first Mass as pope in 2005.

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At the start of today’s Mass, Francis spoke with the Vatican’s master of liturgical ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini. Under Pope Benedict, Marini ushered in a far more traditional style of liturgy. Vatican officials confirm that Marini was somewhat put off by Francis’ refusal last night to wear the formal papal red cape when he emerged on the balcony over St. Peter’s Square.

The new pope’s authorized biographer says the difference in style between Francis and his predecessor reflects his belief that the Catholic Church needs to be at one with the people it serves -- rather than imposing its message on a society that often doesn’t want to hear it.

The difference in style was a sign of Francis’ belief that the Catholic Church needs to be at one with the people it serves and not impose its message on a society that often doesn’t want to hear it, Francis’ authorized biographer, Sergio Rubin, said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press.

‘‘It seems to me for now what is certain is it’s a great change of style, which for us isn’t a small thing,’’ Rubin said, recalling how the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio would celebrate Masses with homeless people and prostitutes in Buenos Aires.

‘‘He believes the church has to go to the streets,’’ he said, ‘‘to express this closeness of the church and this accompaniment with those who are suffering.’’

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