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Francis begins first day as pope in day of private prayer

VATICAN CITY — Displaying some of his signature distaste for the trappings of high office, Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, began the first full day of his papacy Thursday with private prayers at a Roman basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary, slipping quietly into the building by a side door and leaving some 30 minutes later to return to the Vatican.

While his precise schedule remained uncertain, Francis, an Argentine and the first non-European prelate to win the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church in 12 centuries, was expected to hold an inaugural Mass in the Sistine Chapel, where a majority of 115 cardinals voted him into office Wednesday.

In his first public appearance Wednesday before a huge crowd in St. Peter’s Square, Francis, 76, offered prayers for his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who last month became the first pope in centuries to retire, citing failing strength at the age of 85 after a papacy lasting almost eight years.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said Wednesday that Francis planned to visit Benedict at the papal summer retreat outside Rome, Castel Gandolfo, where the former pope — now pope emeritus — is living while an apartment is readied for him at a convent in Vatican City. There was no official word on the timing for the brief journey. The two men were also reported to have spoken by telephone.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said Thursday that Francis, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, would not be visiting Benedict over the next two days, but planned to do so at some point.

Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, the first from the Americas and the first member of the Jesuit order to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. In choosing Francis, the cardinals sent a powerful message that the future of the church lies in the global south, home to the bulk of the world’s Catholics.

—Daniel J. Wakin and Alan Cowell, The New York Times

Boston Phoenix weekly to cease publication

The Boston Phoenix, an alternative weekly newspaper known for its sharp political coverage and smart insight into the cultural and music scene, announced Thursday that it will fold. Sister papers the Portland Phoenix in Maine and the Providence Phoenix in Rhode Island will remain open, the company said.

The Phoenix has struggled with the decline in advertising that has been affecting the rest of the newspaper business. But only six months ago, the paper’s owners announced a transition to a glossy magazine format that seemed to signal a commitment to staying open.

On Thursday, it became clear that the advertising they had hoped would materialize, did not. “We are a text book example of sweeping marketplace change,” Peter Kadzis, the paper’s executive editor said in a statement. “Our recent switch to a magazine format met with applause from readers and local advertisers. Not so — with a few exceptions — national advertisers.”

Dan Kennedy, who worked at the Phoenix from 1991 to 2005, primarily as its media columnist, said the Phoenix long fought to carve out its own presence in a town dominated by the Boston Globe.

He noted that reporters like Kristen Lombardi were investigating the Catholic church sexual abuse scandal a year before the Globe started its ambitious and award-w

“I do think what the Phoenix brought to the table is an absolutely fierce intelligence which is rare to find in journalism in any era,” Kennedy said. “It had terrific political coverage, terrific arts coverage. The one Pulitzer the Phoenix won was for its art coverage.”

The Phoenix responded through its Twitter handle: “Thank you Boston. Good night and good luck.”

—C. Haughney and L. Kaufman, The New York Times