VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis on Thursday marked the anniversary of his election with a humble message, telling his Twitter followers: “Please pray for me.”
No celebrations were planned for the occasion. “The pope is doing nothing special or different from other days. He prays,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.
In keeping with his no-frills style, the Argentine-born Jorge Mario Bergoglio traveled by bus on Sunday to the hill town of Ariccia, located about 20 miles southeast of Rome, accompanied by members of the Roman Curia, the Vatican’s bureaucracy.
Francis took over the leadership of the Catholic Church at a time of deep crisis. His predecessor, Benedict XVI, was the first pope in almost 600 years to resign, leaving in the wake of a string of financial and sex abuse scandals.
Since then, Francis has transformed public perceptions of the papacy, but he also has embarked on major administrative and pastoral reforms.
He set up a Vatican finance ministry and appointed a tough-minded cardinal as its head to show his seriousness about shaking up the Vatican’s bureaucracy.
Those changes have attracted him the sympathies of the world’s media but also aroused suspicion among church traditionalists. He also has been criticized for failing to adequately address the problem of priest sexual abuse.
In the coming weeks, Francis will be busy with preparations for Easter, which this year falls on April 20. A week later, he is due to canonize his predecessors John Paul II and John XXVIII. The event is expected to bring millions of people to the Vatican.
He is scheduled to make two foreign trips later in the year: to the Holy Land in May, stopping in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, and in South Korea in August, marking the first papal visit to East Asia since 1995.
House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday invited Francis to deliver a joint address to Congress, in what would be the first such session by the head of the Catholic Church.
“Pope Francis has inspired millions of Americans with his pastoral manners and servant leadership,” wrote Boehner, a Catholic, in the invitation, noting “his tireless call for the protection of the most vulnerable among us.”