First Latin American Pope Francis has warned the Catholic Church would become “a compassionate NGO” without spiritual renewal.

In a Sistine Chapel Mass with cardinals on his first day as Church leader, the pontiff said: “If we do not confess to Christ, what would we be?

“We would end up a compassionate NGO. What would happen would be like when children make sand castles and then it all falls down.”

Francis is the first Latin American – and the first Jesuit – Pope.

The BBC’s David Willey, in Rome, says the 76-year-old has already been swift to stamp his style on the papacy.

Shunned special car

On Wednesday night, Pope Francis endeared himself to the crowds in St Peter’s Square – and underlined his reputation for humility – when he asked them to bless him before blessing them in return from the balcony of the basilica.

The Vatican’s account of his first hours in the top job on Thursday also emphasised Pope Francis’s humility, describing how he shunned a special car and security detail provided to take him to the Vatican, travelling instead on a bus with the other cardinals.

Following his first outing as pope to the Rome basilica on Thursday, Francis went back to the clergy house in a city centre side street where he had been staying ahead of the conclave that elected him on Wednesday.

“He packed his bags and then he went to pay the bill for his room so as to set a good example,” said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi.

He also broke tradition by remaining standing to receive cardinals’ acts of homage after his election, instead of sitting in the papal throne, Father Lombardi said.

On Friday, Pope Francis will meet all the cardinals, including those aged over 80 who did not take part in the conclave.

On Saturday he will meet the world’s media at a special papal audience, an opportunity perhaps to set out some of his global vision, says the BBC’s James Robbins in Rome.

A visit to his predecessor Benedict XVI at his retreat at Castel Gandolfo outside Rome is also planned, but will not take place in the next couple of days, Father Lombardi said.

The visit to Benedict is important, correspondents say, as the existence of a living retired pope has prompted fears of a possible rival power.

Francis will be installed officially in an inauguration Mass on Tuesday 19 March, the Vatican added.

courtesy of BBC News

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