Vatican (CNN/WSYR-TV) - The Vatican estimates some 150,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square on Tuesday for Pope Francis' inaugural mass.
Wearing the same simple iron cross he wore as a cardinal, and insisting upon remaining close with the people, Francis officially assumed the role as pontiff and set the tone for his papacy.
He did not ride in the traditional pope mobile, opting instead for an open-air vehicle that allowed him direct contact with the faithful.
He kissed babies and even got out of his SUV to bless a disabled man.
Following ceremonies inside St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis processed outdoors where he was inaugurated bishop of Rome.
The newly-elected pontiff accepted a lamb's wool shawl, a symbol of his role as "the good shepherd" and the fisherman's ring, representing his duty to spread the gospel.
Pope Francis delivered his first homily in Italian, asking followers to assume the role of protectors.
“We are all protectors of creation of the plan of God, written in nature. Protectors of one another, of the environment. Let us not allow signs of destruction and death accompany our journey of this world,” he said.
500 priests dispensed communion to the crowd.
At the conclusion of the two-hour mass, Pope Francis greeted the international heads-of-state in attendance, including Vice President Joe Biden, who led the US delegation.
Francis assumes his role at one of the busiest and holiest times in the catholic calendar. Next Sunday is Palm Sunday. Easter follows, one week later.