Pope Francis (center) waves as he leaves Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major on Thursday.
Rome, Mar 14 (EFE) - Pope Francis on Thursday ventured out of the Vatican for the first time as pontiff, visiting Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray privately.
The 76-year-old pope went to the Basilica of the Diocese of Rome, of which he is the bishop, to pray before the Virgin, Italian media reported.
The pontiff arrived in a regular Vatican car and went into the church through a side entrance.
A group of the faithful and curious onlookers joined the photographers and reporters who were awaiting the pope's arrival.
Pope Francis will celebrate his first Mass before the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel at 5:00 p.m. Thursday.
Argentina's Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope on Wednesday and chose to take the name Francis as the 266th pontiff and the first from Latin America.
The former archbishop of Buenos Aires - who was born in that city to Italian immigrants - came in second in the voting at the 2005 conclave that chose then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to succeed John Paul II as Pope Benedict XVI.
Benedict XVI resigned last month, citing age and declining health.
The solemn Mass to mark the beginning of the new pontificate will take place on March 19, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.