Francis Begins Papacy with PrayerWorld | March 14, 2013, Thursday // 15:23| views
This handout picture released by the Vatican press office shows Pope Francis (C) arriving for a prayer at Rome`s Santa Maria Maggiore basilica early on his first full day as the head of the world`s 1.2 billion Catholics, 14 March 2013. Photo by EPA/BGNES
Pope Francis has begun his first day at the helm of the Catholic Church with a private prayer ahead of Mass with cardinals later on Thursday.
He greeted people at Rome's main basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Santa Maria Maggiore.
The first Jesuit Pope then stopped at a side altar where St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, celebrated his first Mass at Christmas.
Pope Francis may begin appointing senior Vatican staff later.
The first Latin American pope has received a flood of goodwill messages from around the world.
But the Argentine also faces a series of tough challenges.
"He spoke to us cordially like a father," Reuters news agency quoted Father Ludovico Melo as saying after praying with the Pope at Santa Maria Maggiore.
"We were given 10 minutes' advance notice that the Pope was coming."
The election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio surprised many observers when it was revealed on Wednesday.
Although he reportedly came second to Pope Benedict XVI during the 2005 conclave, few had predicted the election of the first pope from outside Europe in 1,300 years.
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