World welcomes new Pope Francis I

Obama, Jewish and Muslim communities greet Argentine pontiff

World welcomes new Pope Francis I

Rome, March 13 - Pope Francis I was given a warm welcome by leaders and faithful worldwide after being elected the new head of the Catholic Church on Wednesday. Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno was in St Peter's Square for the Francis's first appearance as pope and was one of the first to greet the promotion of the Argentine, who also becomes the new bishop of Rome. "A warm welcome to the new pontiff Jorge Mario Bergoglio," said Alemanno on his Twitter account. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano was moved by the simplicity of Francis's first comments as pope, ANSA sources said. United States President Barack Obama said that he was looking forward to working with the new head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. "As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than 2,000 years - that in each other we see the face of God," Obama said in a statement. "As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day. "Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict XVI, I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith". In the Argentine capital, an explosion of joy greeted the news that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected the Roman Catholic Church's new pope. Argentine President Cristina Kirchner said via Twitter that she hoped the election of her compatriot as pope will bear fruit for "justice, equality, fraternity and peace in the world". Soccer great Diego Maradona is hoping to meet Francis. "As soon as I come to Italy I hope to get an audience with him," the ex-Napoli player and former Argentina coach told his Italian lawyer Angelo Pisani on the phone from Dubai. Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, hopes the change of pope can help normalise relations with the Islamic world, the diplomatic advisor to one of the most influential figures for Sunni Muslims said Wednesday. Francis's predecessor Benedict XVI angered the Islamic world when in 2006 he quoted a past emperor who called Islam 'evil and inhuman'. Benedict's appeals on the behalf of Christian minorities suffering attacks in the Muslim world were also seem by some as interference. "Let's hope now that relations return to normal," the advisor, Mahmud Abdel Gawad, told ANSA adding that el-Tayeb will send Francis a telegram on Thursday. Rome's Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni on Wednesday sent his best wishes to Francis "so that he can lead the Catholic Church with strength and wisdom in the coming years". "The Church's relationship with Rome's Jewish Community and its dialogue with Judaism have made important steps (forward)," Di Segni added. "The hope is that it is possible to continue on a path of continuity and good relations". Relations between the Vatican and the Jewish world were strained somewhat during the papacy of Francis's predecessor Benedict XVI, who rehabilitated an ultra-conservative cleric who turned out to have denied the scope of the Holocaust. The official Twitter account of the British Embassy to the Holy See also wished Francis well. "The British Embassy to the Holy See joins the Prime Minister @Number10gov in welcoming the election of His Holiness Pope Francis I," it said via Twitter. Britain is engaged in a sovereignty dispute with Francis's homeland over the Falkland Islands. The two nations fought a war over the islands in 1982. Outgoing Italian Premier Mario Monti sent regards "brimming with hope and faith". He went on to comment on Italy's historic ties to his birthplace of Argentina and the name Francis, after St Francis of Assisi, one of Italy's patron saints. "Italians, who are linked by a special history with the people of Argentina, are now seeing themselves in their patron saint, Francis of Assisi, together with the world in the pursuit of justice and peace, along with Your Holiness, with whom Italy supports in your choice of name," said Monti. "On behalf of all Italians, the government and myself, I extend to Your Holiness my warmest and most respectful tribute". European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose' Manuel Barroso on Wednesday wished Francis ''a long and blessed pontificate'' in which he can ''defend and promote the fundamental values of peace, solidarity and human dignity''. ''We are sure that His Holiness will continue his predecessors' work with strength and determination, bringing peoples and religions closer to one another'', the EU leaders said in a joint statement.

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