By Yadira Betances
---- — METHUEN — Catholics around the Merrimack Valley gathered yesterday in prayer as Pope Francis was officially installed as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
“Tonight let us join in prayer asking the intercession of St. Joseph, patron of the universal church, upon Pope Francis as he assumes the office of universal pastor of our church,” said Monsignor Arthur Coyle, vicar of the Merrimack Valley churches during a Mass at St. Theresa Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Methuen.
Among the priests joining Coyle on the altar were the reverends Patrick Armano of Methuen, Paul Keyes of North Andover, Peter Gori of Andover, Martin Hyatt of Methuen, as well as Michael Farrell of Holy Family Parish in Amesbury and Star of the Sea in Salisbury and his deacon, Ray Doucette.
“May our Holy Father Francis be blessed with grace, humility and patience and be strengthened in his role upon Earth as the living sign of Jesus Christ, promoting peace, justice and love,” Coyle said in his homily. “May he be blessed with good health and a long life, that through his sacred words and actions, he may inspire all of the faithful to stand strong with him as he faces the task of breaking down the barriers that divide us.”
The Mass was attended by 120 faithful who braved the weather and slick roads.
Bryan Carnahan of Salem, N.H., attended to show support for the pontiff.
“He’s expected to be superior, but when you’re the pope you have a lot of issues to deal with, and you can always use some prayers,” said Carnahan, a member of St. Monica Church in Methuen.
Coyle addressed that in his homily saying, “Francis inherits a Catholic church in turmoil, beset by the clerical sex abuse scandal, internal divisions and dwindling numbers in parts of the world where Christianity had been strong for centuries.”
Coyle ended his homily with blessings for Pope Francis.
“May he be blessed with good health and a long life that through his sacred words and actions, he may inspire all of the faithful to stand strong with him as he faces the task of breaking down the barriers that divide us,” Coyle said.
After Communion, the choir sang “Prayer of St. Francis” attributed to the 13th-century saint known for working with the poor.