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Pope Francis gives off-the-cuff homily and takes 'selfies' on Palm Sunday

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According to the Huffington Post, Pope Francis totally ignored his prepared homily on Palm Sunday. People packed St. Peter's Square to hear him speak from a prepared speech; however, the head of the Catholic church spoke entirely off the cuff in a remarkable departure from the tradition of having a prepared speech. Later, he posed for "selfies" with young people and sipped tea that was passed to him from the crowd.

During his homily, Pope Francis called on people to look into their own hearts to see how they are living their lives. He included himself in that call. Based on the the biblical account when Jesus' disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemene, the pope asked of himself, "Has my life fallen asleep?" Then, he asked another question of himself, "Am I like Pontius Pilate, who, when he sees the situation is difficult, washes my hands?"

A homily is supposed to be short, and today's homily was about fifteen minutes. Pope Franicis sounded tired, frequently pausing to catch his breath during his speech at Palm Sunday Mass that begins Holy Week for the Roman Catholic Church. The pope asked a third question, "Where is my heart?" He indicated that as the "question which accompanies us" throughout Holy Week.

After the ceremony, Pope Francis shed his red vestments that symbolize blood shed by the crucified Jesus. He chatted with cardinals who were dressed more formally than he at that point. Then the pope did what a lot of people are doing these days. He posed for "selfies" with young people from Rio de Janeiro and Polish youths.

As in the gospel narrative, a crowd of around 100,000 Romans, tourists and pilgrims, carried olive tree branches and tall palm leaves shaped like crosses that were blessed by Pope Francis at the beginning of the ceremony. Pope Francis used a wooden pastoral staff carved by Italian prison inmates that had been donated to him.

Holy Week ends next Sunday with Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square. During this week, many faithful will remain in Rome. If a crowd of about 100,000 filled the square on Palm Sunday, many more people are expected next Sunday for Easter Mass.

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