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A Down-to-Earth Debut for Pope Francis

March 14, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: Yesterday, a selection that took many by surprise. Today, the new pope spent his first day as head of the worldwide Catholic Church.

We begin with a report narrated by Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.

JONATHAN RUGMAN, Independent Television News: He’s a Vatican outsider who speaks five languages, Pope Francis, or Jorge Bergoglio, celebrating mass in the Sistine Chapel tonight, with the cardinals who elected him decked in gold.  

He’s 76, a little unsteady on his feet here, but the Argentinean spoke in fluent Italian without notes. And last night, Italy’s bishops were so convinced that one of their men had won back the papacy that they sent out a message of congratulation by mistake.

This morning, the pope, who is also bishop of Rome, visited one of its oldest churches, praying for the city’s safety. He’s the first non-European to become pontiff in 12 centuries, but his parents were Italian and the welcome here could not have been warmer.

From here, he took an ordinary police car to collect his luggage and pay his bill before the move into a more upscale neighborhood — so, a no-nonsense debut from what appears to be a back-to-basics, down-to-earth pope, apparently hoping to change the Vatican more than it changes him.

St. Peter’s Square heaving with excitement last night when his church pulled back the red curtain and sprung him on the world. He used to be known as Father Jorge. Now he’s Pope Francis, but determined, it seems, that these dizzy heights won’t change him, bowing his head and asking the people to pray for him, then sharing the bus back home with his fellow vicars.

ARCHBISHOP TIMOTHY DOLAN, Archdiocese of New York: We toasted him. The cardinal secretary of state toasted him, and then he toasted us and he simply said, “May God forgive you.”

Which brought the house down. In other words, the — I hope you — I hope you don’t regret this later.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: The biggest cheer, of course, from his fellow Latin Americans, for a man with the common touch, yes, but no doctrinal pushover, as tough on abortion or gay marriage or women priests as his bookish predecessor.