As the world watched St Peter's Square, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, officially became Pope Francis – the new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics and the first non-European pontiff for nearly 1,300 years.
At 8.50am, in front of 100,000 cheering pilgrims and 132 foreign delegations, he emerged from his temporary lodging at the Vatican hotel to take a tour through the cheering crowds in an open-topped Popemobile.
Under clear skies, he criss-crossed the piazza flanked by 20 or so bodyguards, stopping frequently to greet the faithful and kiss babies. At one point, he got out of the vehicle to bless a disabled man.
He then entered St Peter's Basilica to don his vestments and stop by the tomb of St Peter before re-entering the vast piazza to begin the special Mass that would see him installed as the 266th Pope.
In a strongly worded homily, the new Pope set out his vision for his papacy and the Church as a whole by calling for greater compassion for the poor, the dispossessed and the downtrodden. And he urged the world to shun "the omens of destruction and death".
He called on humanity to "show loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about".
And he appealed to world leaders to make the protection of the environment a stronger priority, urging "all men and women of goodwill to be guardians of Creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature".
As the 265th successor to St Peter, Francis received two symbols of office – the Fisherman's Ring, a gold-plated silver ring depicting St Peter, and the pallium, a band of white wool placed around his shoulders as a symbol of his jurisdiction over the Church.
But as any Pope knows, things don't always go to plan. Within an hour, in the process of greeting visiting heads of state in the basilica, the new Pontiff found himself shaking hands with Robert Mugabe.
Francis looked awkward as he greeted the Zimbabwean tyrant, who has been banned from entering the EU since 2002 following accusations of decades of human rights abuses in which thousands died.
As tens of thousands headed for the Vatican yesterday morning, Rome went into lockdown, with hundreds of extra police on the streets and security at airports on high alert.
Among the crowd at the inauguration were twins Gemma and Triona King, 54, from Dublin.
"He seems very level-headed and has great compassion for the poor," said Gemma King. "I think he will be a Pope for people on the margins of society."
US Vice President Joe Biden represented the States at the ceremony, as President Barack Obama prepared for his visit to Israel. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French premier, and King Albert II and Queen Paola of Belgium were also present in Rome. (© Independent News Service)