Five years after the cry of Habemas Papam rang out among the faithful in St Peter’s Square, we look back on the seven most pertinent moments of Pope Francis’ pontificate so far.
1. Who am I to judge?
Shortly after his inauguration in March 2013, Pope Francis declared to reporters on the papal plane back from Brazil, where he had been celebrating World Youth Day: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?" He was answering a question from a journalist about whether there is a “gay lobby” in the Vatican and his comments went viral. They were interpreted by many as the heralding of a new era of greater tolerance and compassion for gay people in the Catholic Church. (Image: Pope Francis aboard his papal plane copyright/CNS.)
2. Following in Jesus’ footsteps
In a gesture of service towards the marginalised, Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 young offenders, including two women, on Holy Thursday in 2013. Celebrating Mass at a prison instead of in Rome broke with papal tradition and spoke volumes of the priorities of "the people’s Pope". Three years later, Francis would issue a decree stating that the foot-washing rite should no longer be limited to men and boys, but should also include women and girls. The change, he said, was “an attempt to improve the method of implementation, to express the full meaning of the gesture performed by Jesus at the Last Supper, his gift of himself ‘to the end’ for the salvation of the world, his boundless charity.” (Image/PA)
3. Praying for peace in the Holy Land
Pope Francis made a surprise stop at the wall separating Bethlehem from Jerusalem during a trip to the Holy Land in 2014. The image, of his forehead leaning against the wall in prayer, became one of the most emblematic of his trip. The Pope has regularly commented on the need to build bridges rather than walls between people and this image provided a visual representation of one of the key hallmarks of his pontificate. (Image/PA)
4. The release of the first environmental encyclical
In June 2015 the Holy Father released his second encyclical on Care for our Common Home, which called on Catholics to understand climate change as a moral issue that affects the poorest people in our world. Laudato Si was received with great joy, both within the Church and outside it, and some believe its timing – just five months before the UN conference on climate change – contributed to the first global agreement to reduce carbon emissions. (Image/PA)
5. Extending the hand of friendship in Cuba
In September 2015 Pope Francis travelled to the US via Cuba, where he met with both Fidel and Raul Castro. The previous year, Francis played a seminal role in brokering a deal between the president of Cuba and then-leader of the US, Barack Obama, which brought the two countries closer diplomatically and economically. The Pope’s involvement in the rapprochement marked his papacy as one which would be defined by a desire for unity and for political action. (Image/PA)
6. Welcoming refugees aboard the papal plane
During a flight from Lesbos to Rome in April 2016, Pope Francis brought 12 Syrian refugees back to the Vatican where they were housed and cared for by the Catholic lay association, Sant’Egidio. The refugee families are victims of the devastating war in Syria that has so far claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The UN Refugee Agency states that more than 5.5m have so far fled their homes seeking refuge in neighbouring countries and a further 6m people remain displaced inside the war-ravaged country. The Pope’s gesture came amid a global debate on how to manage what has been termed “the refugee crisis”. (Image/PA)
7. Mid-air nuptials
Pope Francis married a couple of flight attendants on board the papal plane from Chile earlier this year. He got talking to the couple who explained how the church in which they had planned to say their vows had been struck by a powerful earthquake and collapsed on their intended wedding day. The Pope asked if they would like him to marry them and the ink was barely dry on the official paperwork before the plane landed. (Image/PA)