Pope Francis
Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Reuters)

Pope Francis, soon after his takeover, has warned the Catholic Church might become a "compassionate NGO" if it does not go back to its gospel foundations.

The 76-year-old Latin American pontiff was addressing the cardinals during his first public Mass in Sistine Chapel.

Pope Francis, previously known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, said, "We can walk all we want, we can build many things, but if we don't proclaim Jesus Christ, something is wrong. We would become a compassionate NGO and not a Church which is the bride of Christ." The first non-European pope in 1,300 years was speaking in Italian during his address.

Warning the Church against the "worldliness of the devil," the pontiff told the gathering, "When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we proclaim Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly."

The remarks are being closely scrutinised by many to get an understanding of his style of administration over the coming years in his papacy.

He went on, "When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we proclaim Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly. We may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, all of this, but we are not disciples of the Lord."

Ahead of his address, the pope prayed at the altar of St Ignatius of Loyola and also slipped out of the Vatican to pray at a Roman basilica dedicated to Virgin Mary in Santa Maria Maggiore.

The Argentine, known for his understated lifestyle, was driven in a simple car and insisted on paying his hotel bill. His simple attire during the Mass appears to have impressed many.

"When he left to go back with us to Santa Marta, the staff moved us aside, because usually the pope descends alone in the elevator. And he said, 'No no, no, no, we can all get in.' And so we all got into the elevator, with the pope," Cardinal Jean-Pierre Richard told the New York Times.

The election of the pontiff came as a surprise considering his old age. However, the Vatican maintained that the pontiff is "in very good shape" to lead Catholic followers across the world.