New Pope Francis leaves Vatican, prays at Rome's St. Mary Major basilica

Pope Francis has opened his pontificate with a visit to Rome's main basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary, a day after cardinals elected him the first pope from the Americas in a bid to resurrect a Catholic Church in crisis.

Italy's RAI state television said the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, entered the basilica through a side entrance Thursday morning just after 8 a.m. and left about 30 minutes later. He had told a crowd of some 100,000 people packed in a rain-soaked St. Peter's Square just after his election that he intended to pray to the Madonna "that she may watch over all of Rome."

He told cardinals he would also call on retired Pope Benedict XVI on Friday and celebrate an inaugural Mass in the Sistine Chapel.