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CHALLENGES AHEAD

Updated at: 03/13/2013 7:09 PM
By The Associated Press

He has won the papacy but there is little time for celebration.

Pope Francis takes over a Vatican plagued by scandal in its bureaucracy and under pressure over its failures to protect children from sexual abuse by priests.

The Church is also losing parishioners and its influence on public life, and some Catholics face persecution and violence in parts of the Middle East and China.

Lauded for his humility and austerity, the 76-year-old from Argentina will be called upon to emulate one of his namesakes, St. Francis of Assisi, who saw his calling as trying to rebuild the church.

In the near future, Francis will celebrate his first Mass as pope in the Sistine Chapel on Thursday and will be installed officially on Tuesday, ahead of the busy Easter calendar.

His first public words to the thousands cheering in St. Peter’s Square today were characteristically humble: "Thank you for the welcome."

With that, the 266th papacy has begun.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)