Pope Francis Has Won People's Hearts, Says Vincent Nichols

The Catholic leader of England and Wales has spoken of his excitement over a fresh start for the Church ahead of the Pope's inauguration Mass.

The Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, will join political and religious leaders from around the world to attend the official start of Pope Francis's papacy in St Peter's Square.

He told the BBC this morning: "I'm excited about this morning and full of that sense of a new start.

Vincent Nichols hopes for a fresh start for the Catholic Church

"Everybody has seen Pope Francis here and, as the people here in Rome say, he has 'won their hearts' with his simplicity, his directness and his ability to speak directly to the hearts of people to their anxieties and hopes.

"He seems to me to appear like an experienced and loving parish priest.

"He seems to have this ability to speak to hearts of people directly even though he's addressing a quarter of a million people.

"He's a priest for the world and he's speaking to everybody. Everybody has this sense of being included, those here who don't go to church very often, those in London who I've spoken to who are not Catholics, who are not Christians, they

have a sense of a rapport with him which is quickly established and hopefully will be fruitful."

Asked about the problems the Catholic Church is facing, Nichols answered: "He's saying to us as a family 'Stick together' and, OK, there are difficult times, but a family stays together in difficult times."

Francis will officially receive the ring and the pallium, a wool stole, during the installation Mass, which is drawing six sovereign rulers, 31 heads of state, three princes and 11 heads of government to the Vatican.

More than 132 government delegations are descending on Rome for the Mass which will formally instal Francis as the 266th leader of the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church.

He later defended the invitation to Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to attend the Mass in an interview with Sky News.

He said that despite "clear difficulties" and "criticisms" of the leader, he supported the notion of an open invitation to all world leaders.

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