Pope Francis celebrates Mass in the Sistine Chapel on Thursday. EFE/Osservatore Romano
Vatican City, Mar 14 (EFE) - Pope Francis on Thursday celebrated the first Mass of his papacy in the Sistine Chapel in the presence of the 114 cardinals who elected him the 266th successor of St. Peter.
If the Catholic Church does not preach the Word of Jesus, "we will become a pious NGO, but not the wife of the Lord," the pope said in his homily.
The pontiff said, moreover, that the faithful must walk the way of the cross.
"We can walk all we want, we can build many things, but if we do not proclaim Jesus Christ, the thing is not going to work," Pope Francis said, speaking without a prepared text.
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 Vatican confirmed Thursday that part of one of Pope Francis's lungs was removed when he was young.
"I can confirm that when Pope Francis was in his youth, he was operated on and they removed part of a lung, but those who have known him for the past 30 or 40 years know that he has always enjoyed good health," Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters.
The operation took place shortly after Pope Francis was ordained on Dec. 13, 1969, and he has had no problems, but he must be careful with infections, the Vatican spokesman said.
On Thursday morning, Pope Francis 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.
The solemn Mass to mark the beginning of the new pontificate will take place on March 19.