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Francis a DIY man even as reign begins

ROME: Pope Francis, whose name honours the simplicity and humility of St Francis of Assisi, began his reign by sharing a bus with cardinals after his election, mingling with worshippers in a church next morning and making an unscheduled stop to pay his hotel bill because ''bishops should set a good example''.

Vatican spokesman Tom Rosica said the new Pope's ''spontaneity indicated a new way of doing things that we will have to get used to'' - as would his security guards.

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Father Rosica said that after the Pope's appearance on the balcony of St Peter's Basilica at the announcement of his election, Francis dismissed the papal limousine with the numberplate 1 and shared a minibus back to the Vatican hotel.

At dinner he gently joked to the cardinals: ''May God forgive you for what you have done to me.''

Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, was elected the 266th pope of the Catholic Church on the second day of voting at the conclave in Rome on Wednesday, and took the papal name Francis.

Next morning he visited St Mary Major, the great basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary, praying in both side chapels and at the main altar, which purportedly has relics of the manger in which Jesus Christ was born.


There he mingled with worshippers, one of whom was Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston who resigned in 2002 over public revulsion at his handling of clergy sex abuse. Until recently, Cardinal Law was archpriest of the basilica.

On the way back to the Vatican, Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop at the hotel where he had been staying to pick up his bags - which he carried himself - and settle his account.

''He was concerned about giving a good example for what priests and bishops should do,'' Father Rosica said at the daily briefing on Thursday afternoon.

He celebrated his first Mass as Pope with the 114 other cardinal-electors in the Sistine Chapel, the closing event of the conclave.

Australia's only elector, Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell, said he was delighted with the new Holy Father, a Pope of acknowledged piety and proven orthodoxy who had shown an ability to take hard decisions.

''He is a man of wide pastoral experience who has lived through very difficult times in Argentina during periods of military rule and financial turmoil,'' Cardinal Pell said.

''He will support national hierarchies in the struggle against sexual abuse, giving priority to victims, and one of his first tasks will be to examine the 300-page report on the workings of the Vatican by the three cardinals.''

That report, which some speculated had helped Benedict XVI decide to resign, reportedly contains a devastating account of mismanagement and sexual misconduct leaving some prelates open to blackmail.

Cardinal Pell said Francis would be a formidable Pope who would deal with the Vatican bureaucrats ''appropriately and justly''. ''Argentina is a tough school, and he's done well there,'' Cardinal Pell said.

A Vatican spokesman has said the papal name is Pope Francis. He said the Pope would not become Francis I until there was a Francis II.