Pope Francis I today began his reign as leader of the Roman Catholic Church, with widespread joy in his native Argentina at the election of the first pontiff from the Americas.
The new Pope opened his first morning as pontiff by praying at Rome's main basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary barely 12 hours after being elected.
However, he has also found himself embroiled in controversy after it emerged that he was a strong supporter of Argentina's claim to the Falkland Islands, whose residents this week voted overwhelmingly to continue being ruled by the UK.
The former archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, entered the Santa Maria Maggiore basilica through a side entrance just after 8am and left about 30 minutes later.
Arrival: Newly elected Pope Francis I, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina waves from the steps of the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome this morning
Blowing in the wind: Pope Francis I is caught up in a gust of wind as he leaves the basilica this morning
Pope Francis, centre, waves as he leaves Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica after a visit in Rome on his first morning as pontiff today
Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, waves from the steps of the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome
Warm welcome: Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Santos Abril of Spain, left, and Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of Rome, right, wave to the crowds this morning
'He spoke to us cordially like a father,' said Father Ludovico Melo, a priest who prayed with the pope. 'We were given 10 minutes' advance notice that the pope was coming'.
He told cardinals he will also call on retired Pope Benedict XVI tomorrow and celebrate an inaugural Mass in the Sistine Chapel, where cardinals elected him leader of the 1.2 million-strong church in an unusually quick conclave.
The Roman Catholic faithful in with Latin American were last night jubilant over his election and some even voiced the opinion that he would help the country claim back the Falkland Islands.
Drivers honked horns on the streets of Argentina's capital Buenos Aires - where Pope Francis I was born - and television announcers screamed with elation at the news that the cardinal they knew as Jorge Mario Bergoglio had become Pope Francis.
People jammed the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires for a Mass for the new pope - Latin America's first ever pope and the first pontiff born outside Europe for 1,300 years.
And priests said they hadn't seen such a big crowd in decades. 'Francisco! Francisco!' the faithful screamed. Outside, a thousand people sang and waved Vatican and Argentine flags.
'It's incredible!' said Martha Ruiz, 60, as she wept. She said she had been in many meetings with the cardinal and described him as 'a man who transmits great serenity'.
Leading the cheers: People celebrate in front of Buenos Aires Cathedral after the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new Pope Francis I
Reaction at home: Catholics at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires celebrate the news
Dancing in the streets: Argentinean Catholics gather to celebrate the election of the new Pope, the Argentinean Jorge Mario Bergoglio, in Buenos Aires
Faithful hold up an Argentine flag with an image of Buenos Aires' Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio that reads in Spanish 'Francisco I' outside the Metropolitan Cathedral
'It's a huge gift for all of Latin America. We waited 20 centuries. It was worth the wait,' said Jose Antonio Cruz, a Franciscan friar at the church of St. Francis of Assisi in the colonial Old San Juan district in Puerto Rico.
'Everyone from Canada down to Patagonia is going to feel blessed,' he said after exchanging high-fives with church secretary Antonia Veloz.
Bergoglio's former spokesman, Guillermo Marco, told Argentina's TN television station that the new 76-year-old pope - who is also the first from the Jesuit order - 'has enormous pastoral experience' with a humble bearing.
'You can count the occasions when he used a car with a chauffeur,' Marco said. 'His choices of life as cardinal have been to have a normal, common life.'
The new pope was known for taking the subway and mingling with the poor of Buenos Aires while archbishop.
That common touch was evident in the new pope's first words to the crowd.
'I couldn't believe what I was seeing, when he started saying, "Good afternoon", just like someone saying hello to a friend,' said Bishop Eugenio Lira, secretary-general of the Mexican Conference of Bishops. 'He will certainly be the pope who is closest to the people of Latin America. He knows the problems of Latin America very well.'
A first: The 76-year-old, unveiled as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, becomes both the first South American and Jesuit Pope
Sign of the times: The crowd takes pictures of the new Pope using their cellphones and tablet computers
Captivated: People stand in St. Peter's Square listen Pope Francis I's address in the Vatican City
Jubilant crowds: Roman Catholic faithful wave Vatican and Argentine flags as they sing outside the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires
Soledad Loaeza, a political science professor at the Colegio de Mexico who studies the church, said he was a logical choice. 'First, Latin America is the most important region in the world for the church,' but one where evangelical churches have been making inroads. 'So it may also be an attempt to stop the decline in the number of Catholics.'
For church leaders seeking growth, instead of the aging, declining congregations in Europe or the United States, 'there are only two regions,' Loaeza said: Africa and Latin America.
Nearly half of the world's Roman Catholics live in the Americas, north and south, or the Caribbean.
In Cuba, parish priest Gregorio Alvarez said he believes Francis' background could lead the church to focus more on the ills afflicting humanity, and less on internal issues.
'One hopes that the church will be closer to the problems of humankind and not only the problems of the church,' Alvarez said at the Jesus of Miramar Church in a leafy western suburb of Havana, where bells pealed following the announcement.
'Being Latin American gives him an advantage. He understands the problems of poverty, of violence, of manipulation of the masses," Alvarez said. "All that gives him experience for the job. ... He's one of the family.'
Even Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, a sometimes antagonist who once compared Bergoglio's stands on abortion and gay rights to 'medieval times and the Inquisition,' offered congratulations.
'It's our desire that you have ... a fruitful pastoral work, developing such great responsibilities in terms of justice, equality, fraternity and peace for humankind,' she wrote in an open letter.
Latin America has some of the world's sharpest divides between rich and poor, and Marvin Cruz, a Catholic at the Parish of the Miraculous in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, said the pope's 'main challenge will be the fight against economic inequality.'
Giving thanks: Nuns pose next to an Argentina flag during a mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral in homage to Argentinian cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio after he was elected new Pope
Argentinean Catholics wave flags on the streets of Buenos Aires this morning as Jorge Mario Bergoglio begins his first day as Pope
'His training as a Jesuit will allow him to take it head on,' Cruz said.
He also noted the erosion of church membership in the face of Protestant denominations and secularism. 'I hope he calls those who have left and those without faith to the bosom of the church,' he said.
Monsignor Jose Cummings at the Cathedral of San Juan noted that the new pope "has presented himself as a simple and humble man," and specifically mentioned the word charity in his first remarks.
'He's going to pay particular attention to the people and the people are the church,' Cummings said.
The church secretary at St. Vincent parish in Santiago, Chile, said she had high hopes for Francis' papacy.
'What I have heard is that he is a simple and good man,' Elizabeth Jimenez said. "It is good for Latin America because he knows our reality."
The bishop at the head of Venezuela's church, the Rev. Diego Padron, remarked, 'All of Latin America is dropping to its knees to pray, to thank God for this extraordinary gift that he has given us.'
Singing praise: An Argentinean Catholic claps his hands in Buenos Aires as the faithful crowd the streets to celebrate
Popular: The new pope was known for using the subway and helping the poor of Buenos Aires
'I am convinced this pope will make extraordinary changes, beginning with his gestures today,' Padron said, referring to Francis' bowing to the crowd at St. Peter's Square, 'asking for a prayer, showing great humility and at the same time displaying a great change.'
For some of the poor, the choice has already brought benefits. Juan Carlos Alarcon, a 58-year-old street vendor, came to the Buenos Aires cathedral with a load of Argentine flags to sell.
'I have to take advantage of this historic moment to feed my family,' he said.
But there was a tinge of regret for some who had been hoping for a Brazilian pope.
Bruno Scherer, the brother of Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer, sat by himself in a square behind the main Catholic church in the Scherer family's hometown of Toledo in southern Brazil.
'I think Odilo must be happy. He must have the feeling that he was left off the hook,' Bruno Scherer said.
'I think that because of his age - he's still quite young - he wouldn't want to lose his liberty. He wants to keep traveling, taking photos, and doing his thing... Well, let's at least think that.'
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