UK & World News
Pope Francis Settles Hotel Bill After Prayers
Pope Francis has started his new life as leader of the Roman Catholic Church by praying at one of Rome's oldest basilicas - before checking out of his hotel.
The 76-year-old, who has become the first ever pope from Latin America and the first Jesuit pope, opened his pontificate quietly leaving the Vatican with a visit to Santa Maria Maggiore - dedicated to the Virgin Mary - for private prayers via a side entrance.
"He spoke to us cordially like a Father," said Father Ludovico Melo, a priest who joined in the prayers. "We were given 10 minutes' notice that the Pope was coming."
Shortly after his election, Pope Francis had told a 100,000-strong crowd packed in a rain-soaked St Peter's Square that he intended to pray to the Madonna "that she may watch over all of Rome".
Choosing not to use the official papal car, but another with a Vatican plate, the pontiff then left the basilica and instructed the driver to take him to his hotel so that he could collect his belongings.
And despite now effectively being in charge of the Domus Internationalis Paulus VI - a Church-run residence - he insisted on paying the bill.
He has a reputation for frugality, and is the first pope to take the name of St Francis of Assisi, a gesture of solidarity with the poor.
Later, he will attend a mass with cardinals in the Sistine Chapel - where they elected him leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics - to officially close the conclave.
He will also receive the keys to his papal apartments, which were sealed after Benedict's departure, but Francis will not be moving in until their renovation is complete.
A planned trip to see his predecessor Benedict XVI at the papal retreat in Castel Gandolfo at some point during the next few days is significant.
Benedict's resignation has raised concerns about potential power conflicts emerging from the peculiar situation of having a reigning pope and a retired one alive at the same time.
Francis, who faces many challenges to put the Church in order, has already spoken by phone with Benedict, who has been living at the papal summer residence, south of Rome, since the end of his papacy.
Prior to that, his second day in the job will begin with an audience with the College of Cardinals in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, where Benedict said his farewell to them last month.
The somewhat mild and media-shy new Pope, who has a busy few days ahead of him, is expected to speak to some 4,000 accredited journalists for the first time at a press conference on Saturday.
Francis will recite the Angelus at noon on Sunday from a window of the papal apartments, with tens of thousands of followers expected to gather in St Peter's Square below.
World leaders will descend on Rome on Tuesday for his inauguration mass - preparations for which are already under way.
Many were quick to congratulate Francis - the first non-European pope in more than 1,000 years - with US President Barack Obama describing him as "a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us".
And the reactions to his election continued on Thursday with Israeli President Shimon Peres saying he represented "holy modesty", as he invited him to visit the Holy Land.
Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning, Al Azhar, called for "better relations" with the Vatican under Pope Francis - as did China. Beijing has long had strained ties with the Vatican in a dispute about authority over China's Catholics.
The Dalai Lama expressed his "sense of joy" in a letter to the new pontiff, while the Syrian National Council called on Francis to "make a special gesture for Syria" where more than 70,000 people have been killed in two years of conflict.
Known for his humility and simplicity, his decision to slip out the Vatican earlier was seen as another example of his modesty.
Francis shunned the papal limousine last night for a shuttle bus with other cardinals to go back to a residence inside the Vatican for a meal.
That showed his humble side, according to prominent US cardinal Timothy Dolan, who also revealed that the new pontiff told the cardinals he would be visiting Benedict.
Speaking at the North American College, the US seminary in Rome said Francis was expected to arrive in the limousine.
"And as the last bus pulls up, guess who gets off? It's Pope Francis. I guess he told the driver, 'that's ok, I'll just go with the boys'."
During the dinner, Cardinal Dolan said the new pope also showed his humorous side.
As Francis toasted the cardinals, he said to them: "May God forgive you." It brought the house down, said Cardinal Dolan.
Known until Wednesday as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Argentine Pope Francis became a cardinal in 2001.
His election has pleased Latin Americans, who number 40% of the world's Catholics but have long been underrepresented in the church leadership.
Francis is certain to bring the church closer to the poverty-wracked region, while also introducing the world to a very different type of pope, whose first words to the faithful were a simple, "Brothers and sisters, good evening".
what do you think?
Jim bowen is the new pope?
Look what you could have won!
James R McCulloch
Bully for some!
76 years old. Are there any cardinals with low mileage. The popes are all going ga ga , by the time they are voted in. Age should be the first consideration. The poor old dears are knackered, and should be retired at 65.Never mind starting the job ten years later than that.
d and d Phillips
If its ok for B&Q to employ pensioners, and to have Lollipop people who are retired then why not? Equal chances.............
The Pope is still older than me !!!!!! only just though.
What a fuss! I don't remember this much hoo hah when Professor Richard Dawkins was elected vice president of the British Humanist Association, so why give so much publicity to the election of a new leader of a religious group? Wikipedia shows that out of a world population of about 7 billion, about 2.1 billion are Christian, and about 1.1 billion of those are catholic. This means that more than two thirds of the world population are not Christian, and more than five sixths are not catholic. Wikipedia also gives an estimate of 1.1 billion atheists and agnostics in the world, ie about as many as there are catholics. The only reporting that I remember of atheist views and actions goes back a few years, to when Dawkins wasted money putting ads on the side of buses, risking a backlash from the paid-up and card-carrying loonies. A better sense of proportion is needed in such reporting.
d and d Phillips
But humanists and atheists are free to have a party if they so wish............... Go on, get down and boogie
New pope, same old vatican. Nothing will change
His first day in the job Give him a chance
last one was called the rottweiler, this one is much more soft it seems seems like a trend, tough one, soft one, tough one, soft one etc its like good cop and bad cop life goes round and round and the business is still open. its all marketing