POPE Francis officially began his ministry as the 266th pontiff today in an installation Mass simplified to suit his style.
A huge crowd packed into St. Peter's Square to see Pope Francis celebrate his inaugural Mass amid a wave of hope for a renewal of the scandal-plagued Roman Catholic Church.
Francis thrilled the crowd at the start of the Mass by taking a long drive about through the sun-drenched piazza and getting out of his vehicle to bless a disabled man.
It was a gesture from a man whose short papacy is becoming defined by such spontaneous forays into the crowd and concern for the disadvantaged.
Six sovereigns, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and other leaders as well as heads of many other faiths were among the 130 delegations on the steps of the famous basilica.
Blue and white flags of Francis’s native Argentina fluttered above the crowd, which Italian media estimated could reach one million but appeared to be significantly fewer.