VATICAN CITY (AP):
Walking up to crowds, shaking hands with surprised bystanders in the street, mixing his formal speeches with off-the-cuff remarks, Pope Francis stamped his own style on the papacy yesterday.
His humour and down-to-earth manner captivated many of the 150,000 people who filled St Peter's Square in Rome to overflowing, and he embraced the crowd in a way that had to give his security staff palpitations.
Earlier Sunday, he made an impromptu appearance before the public from a side gate of the Vatican that startled passers-by and prompted cheers as he shook hands and kissed babies. He then went back inside to deliver a six-minute homily, brief by church standards, at the Vatican's tiny parish church, St Anna.
Francis started speaking at the window even before the stroke of noon, the appointed time for the weekly papal address, when the window of the papal study in the Apostolic Palace is usually flung open. The shutters were opened for the first time since Francis' predecessor, Benedict XVI, gave his last Sunday blessing on February 24. Four days later, Benedict went into retirement, the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years.
After Mass, Francis again put his security detail to the test as he waded into an intersection just outside St Anna's Gate. Francis stepped up to the crowd, grasping outstretched hands. The atmosphere was so casual that several people even gripped Francis on the shoulder.
"Francesco! Francesco!" children shouted his name in Italian. As he patted one little boy on the head, he asked "Are you a good boy?" and the child nodded.