Newly elected Pope Francis I, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, makes a private visit to the 5th-century Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome

Pope Francis began his first day as leader of the Catholic Church by stopping by his hotel to pick up his luggage and pay the bill himself, before praying at Rome’s main basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

He entered the St. Mary Major basilica through a side entrance just after 8 a.m. and left about 30 minutes later.

“He spoke to us cordially, like a father,” Father Ludovico Melo, a priest who prayed with Pope Francis, told Reuters. “We were given 10 minutes’ advance notice that the pope was coming.”

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected by his peers Wednesday evening as the new pope, becoming the first pontiff from the Americas.

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