Zuma congratulates Pope Francis

President Jacob Zuma has sent his well wishes to newly elected Pope Francis.

Pope Francis waves the crowd from the papamobile during his inauguration mass at St Peter's square on March 19, 2013 at the Vatican. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma has congratulated Pope Francis on the official start of his papacy following a ceremonious inauguration in Rome on Tuesday.

The new pope was elected to lead more than 1 billion Catholics around the globe following the sudden resignation of his predecessor Pope Benedict.

Standing in the back of an open pope mobile, the pontiff spent almost 20 minutes greeting thousands of people who gathered at the Vatican.

In the past, popes have been transported behind bulletproof glass.

Addressing the crowd, Pope Francis spoke about peace and tolerance and called for the protection of the planet and its people.

Zuma said the new pope will defend the fundamental values of human dignity.