World News Brief, Friday March 15

First pope from the Americas begins new job; Xi Jinping formally sworn in as China's president; Tokyo denies claim Japanese government offered to pay Algeria ransom for release of prisoners; Khmer Rouge leader dies; new Israeli government to be sworn in; and more

Top of the Agenda: Pope Francis Begins First Day

Newly elected Pope Francis started his first full day as head of the Roman Catholic Church Thursday, beginning with private prayers and an expected inaugural Mass in the Sistine Chapel. The new pope will take the helm at a time when widespread child sex abuse scandals and infighting within Vatican bureaucracy have marred the Church's image (Reuters). Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, a seventy-six-year-old Jesuit intellectual, was elected two days into the papal conclave (BBC) on Wednesday evening. The new pontiff is the first to be elected from the Americas, which has some 1.2 billion Catholics, and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium. His election came to many as a surprise (MercoPress), with Vatican observers expecting a longer deliberation.


"Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had a reputation as a humble pastor who even in high office commuted to work by bus, lived in an apartment rather than an apostolic palace and cooked his own meals. In the inevitable comparisons with his predecessor, Benedict XVI, some will point to the new pontiff's credentials as a local bishop, rather than a Vatican insider," writes Michael Hirst for the BBC.

"There is great hope among those who admire the social teachings of the church that Pope Francis will put the struggles and needs of the poor in the developing world at the top of his public agenda," writes David Horsey for the Los Angeles Times.

"But as a theological conservative – who is reported to have been the 'runner-up' to Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 conclave – Pope Francis will not be expected to make changes to the stance on issues such as abortion and euthanasia defended by the Vatican," write Guy Dinmore and Giulia Segreti for the Financial Times.



Xi Jinping Formally Elected

Xi Jinping was officially sworn in at the National People's Congress as China's new president on Thursday, completing the country's second political succession (Reuters) since the Communist Party took power in 1949. Xi was appointed party and military chief in November.

This CFR Backgrounder delves into the structure and history of the Chinese Communist Party.

JAPAN: An Algerian minister said that Japan offered to pay ransoms for the release of Japanese nationals seized in a hostage crisis in Algeria in January--a charge Tokyo denied (JapanTimes).


Khmer Rouge leader dies

New Israeli government to be sworn in


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