On Sunday, the new pope used his Twitter account to praise the city of Rio de Janeiro and invite the faithful to World Youth Day, which takes place in July in the city.
Pope Francis confirmed that he will go to Rio de Janeiro at the end of July to take part in the Church’s World Youth Day, a gathering of Catholic young people that takes place in a different city in the world, every two years.
Taking advantage of his presence in Brazil, several neighboring countries, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile have already extended invitations to the Pope.
The new pope has inherited a Church ridden by problems that include sexual abuse scandals in many countries and allegations of corruption in the central Vatican bureaucracy. Many people have expressed a wish that Francis could give the Church and the Vatican a better image.
Francis has repeated he wants the Church to be poorer and to be closer to the poor and suffering and has given clear instructions regarding sexual abuse: zero tolerance and support for the victim and his/her family.
He has also cut on much of the pomp and extravagance of Vatican formality and ceremonial. Another task for the new pontiff is addressing the Vatican’s IOR bank and finances, allegedly involved in money laundering and which on several occasions was unable to pass the European Central bank “stress test”.
On Saturday afternoon, Francis flew by helicopter to the papal summer residence south of Rome at Castel Gandolfo, where his predecessor, now called “Pope Emeritus Benedict” has been living since he abdicated on February 28.
It was the first time in at least 600 years that a reigning pope and a former pope faced each other. While the Vatican did not disclose what they discussed, it was likely that the conversation included problems of Vatican administration.
Before he resigned, Benedict left a secret report for Francis on the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal in which sensitive papal documents were stolen from the pope’s desk and leaked to the media by his butler, Paolo Gabriele.
Last year Gabriele was arrested and sentenced by a Vatican court to 18 months in prison but Benedict pardoned him and he was freed last Christmas.
On Sunday Francis began Holy Week with a sermon invoking the folk wisdom of his grandmother, further emphasizing a new-look papacy that aims to be closer to the people.
Leading his first major service since his election, Pope Francis addressed a vast crowd gathered for Palm Sunday with simple language, urging them to shun corruption and greed and reach out to “the humble, the poor, the forgotten”.
Departing from his prepared text and referring to wealth, he said: “You can’t take it with you, my grandmother used to say.”
“Let us look around: how many wounds are inflicted upon humanity by evil! Wars, violence, economic conflicts that hit the weakest, greed for money, power, corruption, divisions, crimes against human life and against creation,” he said.
Francis has decided to hold Holy Thursday service this week in a juvenile jail on Rome’s outskirts rather than in the Vatican or in a Rome Basilica, where it has been held by all his predecessor in living memory.
The Church today, he said, like Jesus 2,000 years ago, wanted to transmit a message of hope, “especially in the hearts of the simple, the humble, the poor, the forgotten, those who do not matter in the eyes of the world.”
After blessing palm and olive branches – both symbols of peace – Francis, wearing red and white vestments, walked to the altar on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica to conduct the outdoor Mass.