There was reconciliation in the air in St Peters. Centuries of division were rolled away when Pope Francis greeted Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew from Istanbul during the inaugural Mass. Such a meeting has not taken place since what is known as the Great Schism which split western and eastern Christianity in 1054.
Thirty-four world leaders had attended the Mass and delegates from 132 countries were present while the Vatican said six sovereigns had made the trip to Rome including from Belgium and Monaco.
One of the first greetings was for the President of Italy Giorgio Napolitano. An Italian cardinal had been one of the strong favourites to succeed Benedict XVI before Pope Francis was elected.
Crown Prince Felipe of Spain and his wife were among those the Pope greeted. Felipe was one of three Crown Princes who was present. There were no invitations sent out. All who wanted to be there were, said the Vatican “warmly welcomed.”
There was a brief chat with Robert Mugabe and his wife. The President of Zimbabwe is a devout Roman Catholic. Behind him in line and waiting to meet the Pope leaders from the European Union from where President Mugabe is barred for alleged breach of human rights. The Vatican is a sovereign state outside the EU and so he was free to travel to the inaugural Mass. The Vatican had made it clear no one would have privileged status or be refused. Joe Bidon the Vice President of the United States had made the journey.
Throughout the brief meetings as with the Foreign Minister for Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi Pope Francis was relaxed in what was his first taste of handshake diplomacy. Speaking afterwards British Cabinet minister Baroness Warsi, who was at the Mass said the Pope will remain neutral on the row between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands. Her comments came a day after the President of Argentina Christina Kirchner met with the Pope and said he could help promote “dialogue” between London and Beunos Aires.