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Pope makes surprise call to Argentina

19 March 2013, 16:00

Buenos Aires - Pope Francis surprised crowds of Catholic faithful who waited through the night for his inaugural Mass with a telephone call from the Vatican to the cathedral in Buenos Aires where he used to be archbishop.

Latin America's first pope inaugurated his papacy on Tuesday with an address to an estimated 200 000 in St Peter's Square in Rome, calling for the defence of the weakest in society and of the environment.

In the hours before the Mass was due to start, thousands of faithful gathered around large television screens set up in the central square of Plaza de Mayo, overlooked by the cathedral and the famous pink presidential palace.

In his telephone message at 03:30 local time, Francis, or Francisco as he is known in the Spanish-speaking world, thanked the crowds for their prayers.

"Thank you for praying, for your prayers, which I need a lot," he said. "I want to ask you a favour that we walk together, that we look after each other ... look after life, look after the family, nature," he said.

"Don't forget this bishop, who though far away, cares so much for you."

Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, took his name in honour of St Francis of Assisi, a symbol of poverty, simplicity, charity and love of nature.

Known for travelling by bus and shunning the luxuries of high Church office, Bergoglio lived in a one-room apartment next to the cathedral and grew up in a middle-class family in Buenos Aires.

- Reuters


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