Pittsburghers answer call to pray for Pope Francis

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Pope Francis, when he appeared on the balcony of the Sistine Chapel for the first time Wednesday, made a request of the faithful around the world. He asked for their prayers.

Today, the church in Pittsburgh honored that request.

Bishop David A. Zubik celebrated a Mass for the new pope at St. Mary of Mercy Church, Downtown, where at noon about 150 people gathered. Next Tuesday, the same day the Argentinian cardinal is officially installed as pope at the Vatican, the Pittsburgh diocese will hold a Mass at 7 p.m. at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland to mark what Bishop Zubik called an "extremely important, momentous event in the life of the church."

"Spread the word," he told the people at St. Mary.

Rosalie Affinito of Monongahela, who happened to be Downtown, went to Mass to offer prayers of "thanksgiving," she said. Although she was not previously familiar with Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, she said she was very happy that he was the new pope.

"I just like the way he looks," she said. "He's a very humble person," and she said humility is needed in the world right now.

Joe Mulvaney of Moon, who works Downtown, had also come to Mass to offer his prayers for the new pope.

"I'm going to be praying for Pope Francis, that he will be able to lead the church and help resolve some of the major issues that we have experienced," he said, citing the child sex abuse scandal as one of them.

He also spoke approvingly of Pope Francis' humble nature, referencing reports that the former archbishop of Buenos Aires used public transit to get to work. So does Mr. Mulvaney.

Bishop Zubik, in his homily, reflected on "what a difference a day makes," recalling the six times in his life that he has sat "glued to the television," awaiting word of who the new pope would be.

"What an exciting time for all of us, not only those of us that are Catholics but non-Catholics alike, not only for believers but non-believers alike," he said. "Yesterday afternoon, the world stopped and waited to see who in fact would emerge from the Sistine Chapel."

Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707

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