In the Argentine capital, thousands of people packed the central Plaza di Mayo to watch the pope on giant television screens. They erupted in joy when Francis spoke directly to them from Rome.
“I want to ask a favor,” Francis told them. “I want to ask you to walk together, and take care of one another. … And don’t forget that this bishop who is far away loves you very much. Pray for me.”
Francis faces serious challenges in taking over a church in turmoil after the resignation last month of Benedict XVI, the first pontiff to abdicate in 600 years. The church is beset with sex abuse scandals in the United States and Europe and plagued with bureaucratic mismanagement in the Vatican.
Catholics in St. Peter's Square were confident Francis can handle the problems.
“So far this papacy is like a breath of fresh air that we all needed very badly,” said Antonio Nicolini, 51, a Roman theology and philosophy professor.
Francis will have a chance to reveal his plans for reforming the church Wednesday, when he holds an audience with Christian delegations that attended his installation. On Friday, he is scheduled to meet with foreign ambassadors accredited to the Vatican.
On Saturday, he plans to visit Benedict, who since his resignation has stayed out of the public limelight at the papal retreat, Castle Gandolfo, south of Rome.
Francis then will preside over the rites of Holy Week and celebrate Easter Sunday Mass on March 31.
Also Tuesday, Carlos Trovarelli, leader of Francis’s Franciscan order in Argentina and Uruguay, told an Italian newspaper that the pope, as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, took the first steps toward granting sainthood to several priests and Catholic activists killed in 1976 during the Argentine military dictatorship.
The Vatican later confirmed that Cardinal Bergoglio in 2011 approved the beatification of Carlos de Dios Murias, a Franciscan priest murdered by a military death squad. He also approved a sainthood investigation for five Pallotine churchmen killed at St. Patrick’s Church in Buenos Aires.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.