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Obama Calls New Pope 'Champion Of The Poor'

World leaders have congratulated the new Pope and pledged their support to the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church.

In a message offering "warm wishes" on behalf of the American people, President Barack Obama called Pope Francis "a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, who carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years. As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day," he said.

Obama also pledged to work with the new Pontiff to "advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith."

In a separate message to Pope Francis, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States renews its commitment to working closely with the Holy See to advance their shared belief in peace and humanity.

In a joint message of congratulations on behalf of the European Union, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission chief José Manuel Barroso wished the newly elected Pope and Head of the Vatican State "a long and blessed Pontificate, which will allow your Holiness and the Catholic Church to defend and promote the fundamental values of peace, solidarity and human dignity."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered his heartfelt congratulations to Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who has taken the name Pope Francis on his assumption of the papacy, and to all Catholics across the world on the occasion of the election of the new Pontiff.

"I look forward to continuing cooperation between the United Nations and the Holy See, under the wise leadership of His Holiness Pope Francis," Ban said in a statement issued immediately after the Vatican announcement on the election of the new Pope.

He expressed confidence that the new Pope will "continue to build on the legacy of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in the promotion of inter-faith dialogue which is at the heart of the Alliance of Civilizations initiative."

The 76-year-old from Argentine capital Buenos Aires, who is the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to be pontiff, will ascend to the Chair of Saint Peter with inaugural mass next Tuesday.

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