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Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma congratulated Pope Francis on Tuesday on his election as supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church.
“We would like to wish his holiness a long and blessed pontificate, to defend and promote the fundamental values of peace, solidarity and human dignity,” Zuma said in a statement.
Zuma said Pope Francis assumed leadership at a critical time, when religious leaders had to face up to poverty and under-development around the world.
“We also share the conviction that we can only resolve the interconnected challenges of today's world through dialogue.
“I look forward to continuing our co-operation on issues of international importance, such as Africa and its development, and to strengthen the special relationship between South Africa and the Holy See.”
Pope Francis was elected the new head of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13 after 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI stepped down last month, citing his declining health. He became the first pope in more than 600 years to resign.
On Tuesday world leaders flew in for Pope Francis's inauguration mass in St Peter's Square, where he would receive the formal symbols of papal power. - Sapa