Pope Francis said the church has the right to express its opinions but not to "interfere spiritually" in the lives of gays and lesbians, expanding on explosive comments he made in July about not judging homosexuals.
In a wide-ranging interview published Thursday, the pope also said that women must play a key role in church decisions and brushed off critics who say he should be more vocal about fighting abortion and gay marriage.
The interview, released by Jesuit magazines in several different languages and 16 countries on Thursday, offers perhaps the most expansive and in-depth view of Francis' vision for the Roman Catholic Church.
Pope Francis is celebrating his first Easter Mass as pontiff before a packed crowd at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.
The pope is expected to deliver his Urbi et Orbi ("to the city and the world") blessing at noon (6 a.m. ET) Sunday.
Watch CNN.com Live for gavel-to-gavel coverage of the trial of Jodi Arias, who's accused of killing her ex-boyfriend in 2008. The trial resumes on Tuesday, April 2.
Today's programming highlights...
12:00 pm ET - Good Friday at the Vatican - Pope Francis leads his first Good Friday Mass as pontiff at the Vatican. He'll then participate in a "Stations of the Cross" ceremony in Rome at 4:15 pm ET.
3:00 pm ET - Obama talks economy in Miami - President Obama is expected to call for more government spending on infrastructure projects when he speaks in Miami, Florida.
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Pope Francis officially became the Catholic Church's pontiff Tuesday, in a ceremony that the Vatican said ahead of time would be short in keeping with the spirit of simplicity exuded by the new Holy Father. We live-blogged the event below. You can read the full story here
[Updated at 10:21 a.m. ET] That's all for the live blog of Pope Francis' inauguration as the Catholic Church's 266th pontiff. Tens of thousands of people listened from St. Peter's Square in Vatican City as Francis called for the protection of the weakest in society during his homily.
For more on today's event, check out our full story. Also, see a number of select photos of the event.
[Updated at 7:18 a.m. ET] U.S. Vice President Joe Biden greets Pope Francis.
[Updated at 8:15 a.m. ET] A man of many firsts, Pope Francis will spend part of his first full day celebrating Mass with the cardinals who elected him.
When Jorge Bergoglio stepped onto the balcony at the Vatican on Wednesday evening to reveal himself as the new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, he made history as the first non-European pope of the modern era, the first from Latin America, the first Jesuit and the first to assume the name Francis.
[Updated at 6:25 p.m. ET] That will wrap up our live blog of Francis' debut. For more coverage, check out the links above and read our full story.
[Updated at 5:52 p.m. ET] When Pope Francis is formally installed in a Mass later this month, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will be there, leading the U.S. delegation to the event.
Biden is the first Roman Catholic to serve as vice president.
Meanwhile, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has congratulated Pope Francis – a native Argentine – and expressed hope that he will work toward justice, equality and peace for all.
As we noted earlier, the new pope has clashed with the Argentine government over his opposition to gay marriage and free distribution of contraceptives.
A photo from earlier tonight: People react as newly elected Pope Francis appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica.
[Updated at 5:33 p.m. ET] We know a little more about what Pope Francis will be doing tomorrow: He and the cardinals will hold a Mass in the Sistine Chapel at 5 p.m. local time (noon ET), Vatican spokesman the Rev. Tom Rosica told CNN.
[Updated at 5:16 p.m. ET] A Vatican spokesman says Francis will be a reformer, and will call the church "back to basics."
"He knows the Curia, he's been extremely critical of the mess here," the Rev. Tom Rosica said, referring to the Vatican bureaucracy.
[Updated at 5:07 p.m. ET] Here's something that a pope has never had the chance to do before today: Shortly after Francis was elected, he placed a phone call to his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who has been staying at a papal retreat at Italy's Castel Gandolfo since he resigned February 28.
Benedict, 85, was the first pope to resign in hundreds of years.
News of the phone call came from the Rev. Tom Rosica, a Vatican spokesman.
[Updated at 4:53 p.m. ET] We've just been given confirmation about which Francis the new pope is honoring in his choice of name.
The new pope took the name Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi because he is a lover of the poor, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Tom Rosica told CNN.
Also, the new pope should be known as Pope Francis, not Pope Francis I, Rosica said.
[Updated at 4:50 p.m. ET] Let's take a look at what might be next for Pope Francis:
Before Francis was elected, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said that the new pope will “very probably” say Mass this Sunday at St. Peter’s and do the traditional Angelus blessing, Lombardi said before the election.
It will take several days before there is an installation Mass, because it will take time for world leaders to arrive, Lombardi had said.
[Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET] U.S. President Barack Obama has weighed in.
Obama offered his prayers and "warm wishes" Wednesday to newly elected Pope Francis. Obama called him "a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us," and also said his election as "the first pope from the Americas ... speaks to the strength and vitality of (that) region."
[Updated at 4:44 p.m. ET] The pope's election has caught the attention of the Internet crowd, to put it lightly. Facebook says that its users' top terms about 70 minutes ago were:
1) Pope; 2) Jorge Bergoglio; 3) Vatican; 4) White smoke; 5) Cardinal; 6) Catholic; 7) Decision; and 8) Papal.
[Updated at 4:31 p.m. ET] Latin Americans in St. Peter's Square are thrilled.
"As a youth, and as a Catholic student, and as a Mexican, I am absolutely overwhelmed with emotion (at) the fact that we have a new pope that will represent that part of the (world)," a woman from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, told CNN. "That is something very exciting. I feel that Mexico has been a country that has suffered a lot, and so has Latin America, but it is a people that has always put trust in God, so it is absolutely wonderful to represent our part of the world this time around."
Beside her, a woman from Mexico City said her heart jumped when she heard the announcement that a pope had been picked.
"I'm so excited," she said. "It's a reason of being proud tonight, because Latin America is a very important Catholic area and now it's going to be totally represented here, so I'm so proud and I'm so happy today. ... It's going to help a lot, a Latin American pope, it's going to help. It's going to rebuild many things, and it's a new start."
Check out more Latin American reaction here.
[Updated at 4:22 p.m. ET] Let's take a look at some reaction to Francis' election. Here's what Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York – by some accounts a pre-conclave contender for the papacy – had to say, shortly after he participated in the conclave:
“Pope Francis I stands as the figure of unity for all Catholics wherever they reside," Dolan said in a statement released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Intense prayer from all around the world surrounded the election of Pope Francis I. The bishops of the United States thank God for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the inspired choice of the College of Cardinals.”
And the Church of England, the country's official church denomination, offered a prayer Wednesday for the newly elected pope.
"Guide him by by your spirit, give him grace to lead people in prayer and zeal, and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, your son our Lord," the prayer read.
[Updated at 4:08 p.m. ET] CNN Vatican expert John Allen has reported previously, for the National Catholic Reporter, that the new pope may have been the runner-up in the 2005 election that saw Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger become Benedict XVI. Allen noted that there's no official account of that election – it is officially secret, after all – but various reports had Bergoglio coming in second in 2005.
Pope Francis asked the crowd in St. Peter's Square to pray for him. "Before I give you a blessing, I ask you for a favor - I want you to bless me," he said.
[Updated at 3:51 p.m. ET] Choosing the name Francis is powerful and ground-breaking, CNN Vatican expert John Allen says.
As noted earlier, this is the first Pope Francis. Also, the name parallels one of the most venerated figures in the Roman Catholic Church, St. Francis of Assisi.
Allen described the name of Pope Francis as "the most stunning" choice and "precedent shattering."
"There are cornerstone figures in Catholicism" such as St. Francis, Allen said. Figures of such stature as St. Francis seem "irrepeatable – that there can be only one Francis," Allen added.
Read more about the new name, from CNN's Michael Martinez.
It's been said that Roman Catholic cardinals are reluctant to ever choose an American pope, because the Vatican would then be too closely tied to Washington. President Barack Obama would beg to differ.
As cardinals participated in a conclave Wednesday to elect a new pope, Obama told ABC's "Good Morning America" that an "American pope would preside just as effectively as a Polish pope or an Italian pope or a Guatemalan pope."
"I don't know if you've checked lately but the Conference of Catholic Bishops here in the U.S. don't seem to be taking orders from me," he said, chuckling, after being asked if an American pope would take orders from the president.
Roman Catholic cardinals continue their conclave to elect a new pope. Watch CNN.com Live for ongoing coverage from the Vatican.
Ongoing coverage - Papal conclave
10:30 am ET - Budget debate - The House Budget Committee considers the proposed 2014 budget plan released this week by Rep. Paul Ryan. Senate Democrats release their own budget proposal at 2:00 pm ET.
Will the Roman Catholic Church's cardinals elect a pope today, the first full day of their conclave? If so, they'll have to make it happen in their afternoon session.
Black smoke rose from the chimney fixed to the roof of the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday morning, indicating that the cardinals' first two votes of the day were inconclusive. The cardinals also didn't come to a conclusion on Tuesday evening, which was their first vote.
They will have two more opportunities to vote on Wednesday afternoon, after they have lunch.
We have a number of features to inform you about the process. Our full story on Wednesday's activities can be found here. But also check out:
Wednesday's conclave schedule
Video: Millions bet on pope
How a pope is chosen
Video: Papal conclave 101
Cover-up claims disturb conclave
Four California men allegedly molested as boys by a priest have settled their lawsuit against the Los Angeles Archdiocese and Cardinal Roger Mahony for almost $10 million, their attorneys said Tuesday.
The priest, no longer in the clergy, abused the boys on several occasions dating back to the 1970s, including during overnight trips to San Diego and Riverside counties, the attorneys said.
The archdiocese's attorney, J. Michael Hennigan, confirmed the $9.9 million settlement with the four men.
[Updated at 2:47 p.m. ET] In a not-so-surprising result, there will be no new pope tonight.
Black smoke has risen from a chimney over the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, indicating that no one collected enough votes Tuesday to be elected the successor to the retired Pope Benedict XVI. The Roman Catholic Church's cardinals held their first vote in the chapel today.
The cardinals will vote again tomorrow.
[Updated at 12:46 p.m. ET] The process of selecting a new pope of the Roman Catholic church has begun.
The 115 cardinal-electors have gathered in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, and the doors to the chapel have closed, marking the beginning of today's election session.
This session is scheduled to last two hours, assuming no pope is chosen before then. The cardinals would then go at it again tomorrow.
[Updated at 7:43 a.m. ET] The wait is nearly over: It's time for the cardinals to get down to the business of choosing a pope.
The Catholic Church's cardinals are set to begin their secret election, or conclave, in Vatican City on Tuesday. The process to choose a successor to the retired Benedict XVI could take days.
We have a number of features to inform you about the process. Our full story on Tuesday's activities can be found here. But also check out:
Preparations, both spiritual and practical, neared completion at the Vatican on Monday, where Roman Catholic cardinals will gather to begin the process of selecting the next pope.
The conclave - the secret papal election - begins Tuesday in the Sistine Chapel, which has been closed to the public while Vatican staff readied the ornately decorated vestry for deliberations.
The first public signs of preparations appeared over the weekend as workmen scaled the roof of the chapel on Saturday to install the chimney which will release the black or white smoke that signifies whether a new pope has been elected.
The Catholic cardinals gathered in Rome voted Friday to begin the secret election, or conclave, to elect a new pope next Tuesday afternoon, the Vatican said.
The 115 cardinal-electors taking part in the conclave will enter the closed-door process after a morning Mass, the Vatican said. Only those younger than 80 are eligible to vote.
All 115 cardinal-electors are now in the Vatican ahead of a conclave to elect a new pope, Vatican spokesman Tom Rosica said on Thursday.
No date has been set for the conclave, or secret election, for the new pope, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman.
But Cardinal Roger Mahony, the retired archbishop of Los Angeles, suggested that the announcement might not be far away in a tweet posted Thursday.
Slowly but surely, the Catholic Church's cardinals are putting themselves in position to elect a new pope.
All but two of the 115 cardinals eligible to elect the new pope are now in Rome, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi announced Wednesday. One more is due to arrive this afternoon, and the last one on Thursday, he said.
No date has yet been proposed for the secret election, or conclave, to select the successor to former pontiff Benedict XVI, who resigned last week. For more on today's developments at the Vatican, read this story.
Interactive: A look at possible papal contenders
How is a new pope elected?
A group representing survivors of sexual abuse by priests on Wednesday named a "Dirty Dozen" list of cardinals it said would be the worst candidates for pope based on their handling of child sex abuse claims.
Their presence on the list is based "on their actions and/or public comment about child sex abuse and cover up in the church," the group said.
The list includes cardinals from several countries.
SNAP, the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests, said as it released the list Wednesday that its accusations were based on press reports, legal filings and victims' statements.
The cardinals on the list have not yet responded to the move by SNAP.
The Sistine Chapel is closing to the public Tuesday afternoon so that Catholic officials can prepare for an eventual conclave to elect a new pope, the Vatican announced.
Catholic cardinals have yet to announce when the conclave to elect Pope Benedict XVI's successor would start. On Monday they began a series of meetings designed to, among other things, decide when the conclave will begin. They were due to continue these meetings, known as General Congregations, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Scotland, who has been dogged by allegations he abused four men studying to be priests in the 1980s, said in a statement Sunday that "there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal."
O'Brien, who resigned last month, did not explicitly state what he had done or what allegations against him are true. "In recent days certain allegations which have been made against me have become public. Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them," he said in the statement.
He apologized "to those I have offended" and to "the Catholic Church and people of Scotland."
The events that will lead to the election of a new pope are starting to take shape.
The Catholic Church's cardinals will start general congregations – meetings that precede a conclave to elect a new pope – on Monday at 9:30 a.m. at the Vatican (3:30 a.m. ET), with a second session set for later that day, according to a letter issued Friday by the dean of the College of Cardinals.
Setting a date for the conclave to elect the new pope will be among the items on the agenda. The previous pope, Benedict XVI, resigned Thursday.
Possible papal contenders
[Updated at 2:10 p.m. ET] Uniformed police officers have now taken over the task of guarding the pope emeritus. When his papacy ended 10 minutes ago, Swiss Guards left their posts, closed the doors of Castel Gandolfo, and hung up their halberds.
[Updated at 2 p.m. ET] The papacy of Benedict XVI is now officially over, ending a pontificate in retirement rather than death for the first time in nearly 600 years.
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