Pope Francis pledges to serve the people at inauguration

Pope Francis smiled broadly as he arrived in St Peter's Square in the Popemobile. Photo:

Pope Francis has promised to bring his followers hope by service at his inauguration in front of a crowd of 150,000 in Rome's St Peter's Square.

Gathered under bright sunshine, the 266th pontiff called for Christians to defend the weakest in society and protect their faith in his keynote address at the centre of the ceremony, which will have been watched around the globe.

He had earlier been greeted by passionate scenes in front of the Basilica as he arrived, beaming, in the Popemobile.

Pope Francis left the vehicle to greet some of followers at the front of the huge crowds, which sported a sea of banners declaring support for the new incumbent from a myriad of nationalities who had descended on the Italian capital for the historic occasion.

The new pontiff blessed members of the crowd in the square.

The Argentinean adopted a more humble approach than the inauguration eight years ago of his predecessor Benedict XVI, whose installation as the head of the Catholic church was marked in baroque splendour.

In the traditional homily to the crowd, Pope Francis paid tribute to Benedict, sending him "prayers, affection and thanks".

Crowds cleared to reveal bright sunshine as the ceremony progressed.

Regarding his own role as the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis said he would bring hope by using the "authentic power of service".

(The Church's mission) means respecting each of God's creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.

Pope Francis had earlier kissed babies passed up to him as he was driven towards St Peter's Basilica.

He added that demonstrating kindness and compassion is "not a sign of weakness".

In keeping with the Church's ambition to broadcast his message to the widest possible audience, the key messages from his homily were tweeted soon afterwards from the Pope's official account.

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Let us keep a place for Christ in our lives, let us care for one another and let us be loving custodians of creation.

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True power is service. The Pope must serve all people, especially the poor, the weak, the vulnerable.

The vast crowds were slightly down on the expected turnout for the inauguration.

Baroness Warsi joined Cabinet colleague Kenneth Clarke in representing the British government at the inauguration and paid tribute to the new pope.

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Privileged & honoured to witness up close the moving inauguration of #Pope Francis. His messages of hope will ring through the world #faith

Pope Francis inherits the papacy at a difficult time in its history.

The Argentinean clearly enjoyed the welcome he received on the historic day.

The Church has been mired in scandals over priests' sexual abuse of children and the leak of confidential documents alleging corruption and rivalry between cardinals inside the Church government or Curia.

The hysteria was soon followed by a moment of quiet calm as he prayed in front of St Peter's tomb inside the Basilica.

Many of the cardinals he stood to greet during today's ceremony - again demonstrating a humbleness towards his position - reportedly may not survive a shake-up of the frontline of the Church.

Pope Francis addressed the crowd from scripture before beginning his homily.

The closest the inauguration came to controversy was the attendance of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, who is banned from the European Union, but free to travel to the Vatican.

The international pariah was warmly greeted among a succession of world leaders and dignitaries meeting the newly inaugurated pontiff inside St Peter's Basilica.

Robert Mugabe was afforded a warm welcome following the ceremony.