ROME — Some of the world’s most controversial leaders gathered in St Peter’s square to join Pope Francis for his inauguration.
President Robert Mugabe topped the list controversial people at the inauguration. He was seen being pictured by an official who was holding an iPhone with a pink case.
Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was seen in the front row dressed in black, just a day after she lobbied Pope Francis over the Falkland Islands.
They were part of the representatives from 132 countries who attended the inauguration.
Ken Clarke and Baroness Warsi represented the UK along with the Duke of Gloucester.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel — currently a focus of protest over the Cyprus banking crisis — was also in attendance.
Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-Jeou also turned up despite angering Beijing.
Mugabe slipped into Italy for the inauguration of Pope Francis and officials went to some lengths to play down the technical infringement of a European Union travel ban on Africa’s oldest leader.
Mugabe, who has been under the ban since 2002 because of allegations of vote-rigging and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, was whisked straight from his plane to Rome airport terminal in a black van, together with his wife Grace, and bodyguards.
Although the airport is on Italian territory, the 89-year-old President was met by a priest who said: “On behalf of Pope Francis, welcome to the Vatican, welcome to the Holy See.”
He was then taken to a hotel on the famous Via Veneto.
The Vatican said it did not issue invitations for the inauguration of Pope Francis. But representatives of world governments were welcome to attend.
“The Holy See informs everyone that this event is taking place. There are no invitations. There are no privileges and no one is refused.
While one country may have problems with someone else, we invite no one. This must be made clear,” a Vatican spokesman said.