Like any new leader, Pope Francis will have a period of grace.
The element of surprise at Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio's election as the first pontiff from Latin America will add to that period as the world waits to get a sense of his leadership and plans for the church.
But few are under any illusions at the difficult task the head of the Catholic Church faces after the pomp and ceremony of his inauguration next week.
He takes charge of a church under pressure from inside and out.
The continuing decline in congregations and the priests to lead them, the demands for internal reform, particularly in the role of women, and the continuing fallout from the church response, or lack of it, to sexual abuse committed by the clergy against minors are among the challenges.
None are for the faint-hearted which does pose a question over the new pope's advanced age, and his health - a respiratory disease in his youth left him with only one lung.
At 76 he is just two years younger than his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI when he took up office eight years ago. Pope Benedict became the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years last month, citing deteriorating health.
Cardinals missed the chance to give a strong message of renewal by electing a younger pope.
However, the choice of Argentine Cardinal Bergoglio does at least show a wider world view, acknowledging that 40 per cent of the world's Catholics live in Latin America.
Should those outside the church care about a new pope? As spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide, sheer weight of numbers says yes.
While the Vatican does not wield direct political power, the pope can still exercise considerable influence, particularly as a force for peace, and co-operation between faiths.
The new pope is described as morally conservative on issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception, but more liberal on wider social issues. He has described inequality as a "social sin that cries out to Heaven".
Critics will point to other forms of inequality, such as not allowing women in the priesthood. Pope Benedict emphatically ruled that out, but acknowledged progress on promoting women within the church has been too slow. Pope Francis will be expected to improve that.
At first glance the new pope symbolises a more grassroots approach than his predecessor.
He is known for his humility, shuns the trappings of office, and favours the church getting out on the street and working with people rather than waging doctrinal battles.
Already his style seems more down to earth than his predecessor, from the unadorned white cassock he wore on his first appearance on the balcony of St Peter's Basilica to an off-the-cuff homily during his first Mass.
They are small signs that he may be more suited to the big task of reconnecting the church with its followers, and the wider world.
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