Pope visits his first parish on Rome outskirts

Pope Francis (R) poses with Bulgaria's provisional Prime Minister Marin Raykov during a private audience at the Vatican May 24, 2013 . REUTERS/Gabriel Bouys/Pool

ROME: Pope Francis on Sunday visited a Rome parish for the first time, choosing a church on the outskirts of the city after his call for clergymen to take God's message to the "fringes" of society.

Church bells rang out as the pope was greeted by hundreds of faithful who waved handkerchiefs in the white-and-yellow colours of the Vatican.

The pope celebrated an open-air mass outside the church of Saints Elizabeth and Zachary in the northern Rome suburb of Prime Porta, offering first communion to 16 local children.

The parish priest in the working-class neighbourhood, Father Benoni Ambarus, said the choice of his church was an appropriate one.

"It was natural for this parish to receive the first visit from a pope who has spoken of the need to go into the outskirts," Ambarus said.

The Argentine pope, the first non-European pontiff in nearly 1,300 years and the first-ever Latin American pope, was elected by fellow cardinals in March and has struck a different tone from his more reserved predecessor, Benedict XVI.





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