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. 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.
Cardinal Agostino Vallini, who is the pope’s vicar to the Rome diocese, decided along with city officials to name part of St. John in Lateran Square after John Paul II.
After his election on March 13 as the church’s first pope from Latin America, Francis made clear that he would stress his pastoral role as the city’s bishop. His two-hour installation ceremony was simpler than the ritual used in centuries past.
Instead of arriving in a horse-drawn carriage, Francis rolled into a side entrance of the basilica complex in an open-topped white jeep. The vehicle stopped several times so security officials could pass babies to the pope to kiss, to the delight of thousands of spectators. When wind started whipping up, Francis took off his skull cap, letting the breeze tussle his hair.
Francis later donned the tall, peaked bishop’s hat, and wearing simply adorned cream-colored vestments, gently sat back in the mosaic-studded basilica chair, known as the ‘‘Cathedra Romana.’’
He was handed the pastoral staff, symbolizing a bishop’s care for his flock. Barely a few minutes later, Francis was up on his feet, shaking hands with priests, nuns, and then with the parents and young children in a Rome family, chatting amiably with them. ‘‘It is with joy that I am celebrating the Eucharist for the first time in this Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. I greet all of you with great affection,’’ Francis said in his homily.