Pope Francis began his first full day as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics with prayers at a basilica in Rome Thursday, then was celebrating Mass in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel privately with the cardinals who elected him on Wednesday.
Also on his schedule was a meeting with his predecessor, Pope Benedict, who resigned the papacy last month. Benedict, now known as the church's pope emeritus, has been staying out of the Vatican spotlight at the papal summer retreat outside Rome.
The new pope, formerly Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, is the first Jesuit - a priest of the Society of Jesus - to be elected to lead the global church and the first of 266 popes throughout the past 2,000 years to take the name Francis.
About 40 percent of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics live in Latin America, with Brazil and Mexico having the largest Catholic populations.
Pope Francis, like the saint whose name he has chosen, is noted for his humility and commitment to social issues. He has been criticized in Argentina for his firm opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion, a complaint was once filed there claiming he failed to denounce atrocities committed by Argentina's military government between 1976 and 1983.
Pope Francis with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, holding a picture of a plaque commemorating the 1984 peace and friendship treaty between Argentina and Chile, March 18, 2013.
Pope Francis and Uruguay's priest Gonzalo Aemilius greet people at the Vatican, March 17, 2013.
Pope Francis greets the crowds after conducting a mass in Saint Anna church inside the Vatican, March 17, 2013.
Pope Francis appears at the window of his future private apartment to bless the faithful, gathered below in St. Peter's Square, during the Sunday Angelus prayer at the Vatican March 17, 2013.
Pope Francis conducts a mass in Santa Anna church inside the Vatican, March 17, 2013.
Pope Francis leaves the Paul VI hall with security at the Vatican, March 16, 2013.
Pope Francis checks out of the church-run residence where he had been staying in Rome before becoming pontiff, March, 14, 2013. (Osservatore Romano)
Key chains featuring images of the newly-elected Pope Francis are displayed in a tourist shop near the Vatican in Rome, March 15, 2013.
In this image made from video provided by CTV, Pope Francis celebrates his inaugural Mass with cardinals, inside the Sistine Chapel, at the Vatican, March 14, 2013.
Newly elected Pope Francis waves from the steps of the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome, March 14, 2013.
Newly elected Pope Francis walks in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore during a private visit in Rome, March 14, 2013.
Newly elected Pope Francis makes a private visit to the 5th-century Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, in a photo released by Osservatore Romano in Rome, March 14, 2013.
A nun takes a photograph of the first batch of souvenirs adorned with freshly-printed pictures of the newly-elected Pope Francis in a shop at the Vatican, March 14, 2013.
The fact that the pope is not Italian, or even European, may bode well for the church, according to the Reverend William Currie, a Jesuit priest who is a former president of a Catholic university in Tokyo.
"I think the fact that he is an outsider to the Vatican, an outsider to the Curia [the church administration in Rome], there are advantages and disadvantages, but frequently an outsider can make changes where maybe someone who has been inside the system too long could not."
Joe Torres, bureau chief of the website Catholic Asia News, says Asians hope Pope Francis will be aware of issues that are important to them.
"Most Asians hope that their voice will be heard in the running of the church. There are many issues in Asia, like poverty in the midst of economic development in some parts of the world. That’s why stronger voice of the church about equality, about human rights, about the injustices that are still going on in some parts of Asia, are most awaited from the new pope."
Torres is based in the Philippines, where about 80 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. Torres says Asians are eager to learn about the new pope because, until now, he has been "virtually unknown" in their part of the world.
VOA's Celia Mendoza, in Vatican City, says Pope Francis is also noteworthy for being "very engaged with digital media."
"He’s a theologist, he’s a very smart man, but he also embraces technology... And he actually writes for different media that are ... on the Internet," she said.
At the same time, she notes that the new pope is seen as a theological traditionalist.
"You have to remember that he is a little bit of an 'old school' guy in terms of his doctrine," Mendoza said. "And that's why eight years ago he was a contender [to become pope] along with Benedict XVI."
Pope Francis arrives at the St. Francis Basilica to lead a mass as part of his pastoral visit in Assisi, Italy, Oct. 4, 2013.
Pope Francis greets faithful upon arrival for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sept. 18, 2013.
Then Archbishop of Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio leads a mass during the annual gathering and pilgrimage to the church dedicated to Saint Cajetan, the patron saint of labor and bread, in Buenos Aires, August 7, 2009.
Then Archbishop of Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio greets people during the annual gathering and pilgrimage to the church dedicated to Saint Cajetan in Buenos Aires, August 7, 2009.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner greets then Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio at the Basilica of Lujan, Dec. 22, 2008.
Then Pope Benedict greets then Archbishop of Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio at the Vatican, Jan. 13, 2007.
Then Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio washes the feet of two newly born children on Holy Thursday at the Buenos Aires' Sarda maternity hospital, March 24, 2005.
Jorge Bergoglio is pictured in this undated handout photo courtesy of Clarin.
Jorge Bergoglio poses in this undated handout photo courtesy of Clarin.
Jorge Bergoglio and his family are seen in this undated handout photo provided by Clarin.