Georgetown President Part of White House Delegation to Pope's Mass
March 19, 2013 – Georgetown President John J. DeGioia was one of only three members of a delegation led by Vice President Joe Biden to attend the Inaugural Mass of Pope Francis this morning in Vatican City.
The other two delegation members were Republican Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), democratic leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.
"Our community joins the world today in offering prayers for our new Holy Father and for the [Roman Catholic] Church," DeGioia said. "At this time of joy and celebration, we are also extremely moved by Pope Francis' commitment to and preference for the poor, and we look forward with great anticipation to the impact this will have on our world."
About 200,000 people attended the Mass, which began today at 9:30 a.m., Rome time, on the feast of St. Joseph.
The new pope's homily focused on the importance of protecting the poor, the young, the elderly and the environment.
"The vocation of being a 'protector' ... is not just something involving us Christians alone," Pope Francis said in his homily, "it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God's creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person..."
Rev. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., Georgetown’s vice president for mission and ministry, listened to the speech in Washington, D.C. He said he was "deeply moved by Pope Francis' call for us to be, like St. Joseph, protectors of the poor and vulnerable."
Matthew Carnes, S.J., assistant professor of government was also impressed by the new pontiff's homily.
"[Pope Francis] has taught as much by his actions as by his words," Carnes said. "His simple vestments, his hand-me-down papal ring and his eagerness to get close to the people in St. Peter's Square show his eagerness to [as the pope said in his homily] 'open his arms to protect all of God's people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important.' "
"[The pope] is introducing his ministry as "lowly, concrete and faithful service," and we see that service modeled in the directness and humility of his words and actions," Carnes added.