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Thousands turn up to President Marcelo’s landmark “housewarming” in Belém

As many as 6000 people arrived at Belém Palace in Saturday’s brilliant sunshine to take up the landmark offer of Portugal’s new president to “come on over” and meet him in his new ‘home’.

Hundreds came with their children who were allowed to play in the manicured gardens as a smiling seemingly indefatigable Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa hugged and kissed people, posed for photographs, signed autographs and generally made everyone feel welcome.

The 67-year-old head of state meant what he said when he vowed combat the climate of disillusionment that has hung over the country for the last few years.

His decision to throw open the doors of the presidential palace just three days into his tenure was “fundamental”, he said, in “healing the wounds” and getting citizens to feel close to their national symbols.

“The flag, the national anthem, the President and Belém Palace – but above all, they must feel close to each other”, he told reporters.

The open-day was just one of the many breaks with tradition that Marcelo has on his agenda.

After his energetic meeting and greeting on the palace veranda and gardens, he went on to two exhibitions and a bookshop – dispensing with formalities as much as possible, arriving on foot and leading many holidaymaking sightseers to wonder out loud who he was.

“It was a question throughout the afternoon”, writes Diário de Notícias.

With his first official visit scheduled for the Vatican later this week, there are those who are already likening him to Pope St Francis, adds Observador.

But for now, after a week that has taken him from ceremonies in Lisbon to a riotous welcome in Porto, Portugal’s president is simply showing the country that he means what he says.

“Marcelo had another day of showing the warmth and good feeling that he has been asking for since he began his presidential campaign”, writes Público. “For his part, he has already proved that he has a lot of it to give”.

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