World hopeful as new Pope welcomed
People walk past a sand sculpture of the new pope at the Golden Sea beach on the Bay of Bengal coast in Puri, Orissa state, India, Thursday, March 14, 2013. Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected pope Wednesday, becoming the first pontiff from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium. AP Photo/Biswaranjan RoutA leading Syrian opposition group called on newly elected Pope Francis on Thursday to "make a special gesture" for the country where more than 70,000 people have been killed in two years of conflict.
"Our people... hope that the new pope, who brings a message of love and peace, will make a special gesture for Syria, cradle of civilisations and crucible of religions... where peace and faith are being flagrantly violated," the Syrian National Council said.
"The man who was chosen is known for being very close to people's suffering and for being a defender of their rights, and this is a source of joy and hope for our people... who are paying a very high price for their freedom and dignity," it said.
Christians make up some five percent of the population of mainly Muslim Syria.
China urges Vatican to drop Taiwan ties day after pope elected
China hopes for improved ties with the Roman Catholic Church, it said on Thursday, a day after the election of the new pope, but it stressed the Vatican must take the initiative and end diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
"We hope that under the leadership of the new pope the Vatican will adopt a practical and flexible attitude and create conditions for the improvement of China-Vatican relations," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
Sunni Islam's Al-Azhar eyes 'better relations' with new pope
Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning, Al-Azhar, said on Thursday that it wants "better relations" with the Vatican under Pope Francis.
The 76-year-old Argentine, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected in a surprise choice to be the new leader of the troubled Roman Catholic Church on March 13.
"We are hoping for better relations with the Vatican after the election of the new pope," Mahmud Azab, adviser for inter-faith affairs to Al-Azhar imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb, told AFP.
"As soon as a new policy emerges, we will resume the dialogue with the Vatican which was suspended in early 2011," Azab said. "We congratulate the Church of St Peter and all Catholics around the world."
In 2006, Pope Benedict sparked fury across the Muslim world when he recounted an anecdote in which the Muslim Prophet Mohammed was described as a warmonger who spread evil teachings by the sword.
Russia's Church, Putin welcome new Pope
The Russian Orthodox Church and President Vladimir Putin said Thursday they expected that newly elected Pope Francis will foster warmer ties between the Orthodox and Catholic churches.
"The Russian Church welcomes the decision of the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, and, as before, counts on relations between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches developing in a positive way," the head of Russian Patriarch Kirill's press service, Deacon Alexander Volkov, told the RIA Novosti news agency.
President Putin, a Russian Orthodox believer, sent a telegram of congratulations saying that "I am convinced that constructive cooperation between Russia and the Vatican will develop further on the basis of the Christian values that we share." He wished the new pope "fruitful activity in strengthening peace and promoting dialogue between civilisations and religions," the Kremlin said.
Pope Francis arrives at Rome basilica for private prayer
Pope Francis arrived at a Rome Basilica on Thursday for a private prayer on his first full day as the leader of the Roman Catholic Chuch, following his historic election.
The Argentine pope entered Santa Maria Maggiore by a side entrance, an AFP photographer reported.
The 76-year-old Argentine, who will adopt the name of Pope Francis, appeared on the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica just over an hour after white smoke poured from a chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel to signal he had been chosen to lead the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
Francis delivered his first blessing to a huge crowd in St. Peter's Square, asking for the prayers of "all men and women of good will" to help him lead the Catholic Church.
First Jesuit pope
He is the first Jesuit to become pope. The decision by 115 cardinal electors sequestered in a secret conclave in the Sistine Chapel came sooner than many experts expected because there were several frontrunners before the vote to replace Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned in February.
Complied from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.