HE wore a simple white robe for his first public appearance, eschewing the traditional scarlet and ermine cape of pontifical authority. He broke tradition again by asking the 100,000 in St. Peter's Square to pray for his predecessor. He is reported to have joked with the cardinals who elected him, "May God forgive you."
Pope Francis by all accounts - and first actions - prefers a simple life. Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the son of an Italian working-class father who immigrated to Argentina and he has remained an advocate for the poor.
But the somewhat surprising election of a Jesuit pope, one from the New World at that, does not signal major change for the church by itself. One of the reasons a long-shot contender for the Bishop of Rome was elected so swiftly is likely that he is considered to be a conservative on the issues of contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage and celibacy.
Perhaps those are issues that matter more in North America and parts of Europe where Catholic congregations are declining in numbers and less so in South America and Africa where numbers are increasing.
If so, the success of his papacy may well rest less on evangelism and more on whether or not he is able make headway on reforming Vatican bureaucracy itself, where the stench surrounding the cover-up of clerical sexual abuse continues to linger and rumours of corruption persist.