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Argentina's pope stood up to power, but he has his critics


March 14. 2013 8:21PM

Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, leads a a mass with cardinals at the Sistine Chapel, in a picture released by Osservatore Romano at the Vatican March 14, 2013. In his first public Mass, Pope Francis urged the Catholic Church on Thursday to stick to its Gospel roots and shun modern temptations, warning that it would become just another charitable group if it forgot its true mission. (REUTERS/Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis made away with pomp and protocol on the first full day of his papacy Thursday, confirming his preference for simplicity and humbleness.

Argentine-born Jorge Mario Bergoglio already has broken with Catholic Church tradition on several counts. He is the first non-European pope since the eighth century; the first from Latin America; the first Jesuit; and the first to have assumed the name Francis.

On Wednesday, after his election in the Sistine Chapel conclave, he refused the papal limousine to go back to the Santa Marta residence where cardinals had been staying.

"He preferred riding on the minibus with the others," Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.

The new pope - who was known to use public transport and cook for himself as Archbishop of Buenos Aires - decided not to wear an ermine fur cape, as Benedict XVI had done before him, when he appeared from the centre balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica for the first time.

Bergoglio's humble demeanor was also evident when he asked the faithful to pray for him before giving his blessing. He also showed some humor, commenting that his fellow cardinals had gone to "almost the end of the world" to find him.

On Thursday, again wearing simple clothes and using a normal car rather than the papal Mercedes, he visited Rome's Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. He was accompanied by George Gaenswein, the Prefect of the Papal Household and the personal secretary of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

"It looked as if he had always been a pope. He did not look embarrassed or scared," the Rev. Elio Monteleone, a Franciscan friar from the Basilica, said after witnessing the papal visit.

The pontiff then went to pick up his personal belongings from the Vatican guesthouse in central Rome, where he had stayed before the start of the conclave.

In the afternoon, he returned to the Sistine Chapel to celebrate Mass with his fellow cardinals electors, while his audience with the entire College of Cardinals _ including those over 80 age _ is scheduled for Friday.

From the moment white smoke announced the papal election, signals were sought about what kind of chief the 76-year-old Francis will be for a church beset by infighting, scandal and dwindling global appeal.

The Vatican also has confirmed that he had part of his lung removed when he was 21, but insisted that he is in good shape.


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