New pope welcome in UK, despite Falkland views: Press

LONDON (AFP) - Britain's press on Thursday set aside its bitterness towards Argentina over the Falkland Islands to welcome in Pope Francis, the Catholic Church's first head from the New World.

Britain's newspapers hailed the Vatican's decision to look farther afield for a leader, but The Times and Sun both noted the Argentinian's 2011 comments in which he declared the disputed islands "ours".

The islands hit the headlines earlier this week when its inhabitants voted 99.8 per cent in favour of remaining British, but Argentina dismissed the poll as irrelevant.

"We hope his previous sermons sympathising with Argentina's position will not be repeated," said the reliably patriotic Sun in its editorial.

"He (Francis) could support Britain by talking sense into Argentina's leaders stirring trouble over the Falklands," it added.

According to the tabloid, Francis told reporters in 2011: "The Malvinas (Falklands) are ours. Respect for those who gave their lives must not be lost. This is our land. The Falklands are Argentine."

Despite his comments, the paper said that Francis would "always be welcome in Britain".

It carried a front-page photograph of the pontiff waving to crowds in St Peter's Square above the headline "Hand of God", a reference to Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona's hand-balled goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final.

In contrast, The Times splashed "A New World Pope" across its front page.

It said Francis had an "outstanding opportunity to re-establish the moral authority of the Church" and that he gave "every indication of inspiring admiration, even devotion, as well as respect".

The leading article insisted that Pope Francis' conservatism would not necessarily impede reform within the battered institution.

The Daily Telegraph celebrated "Pope Francis the humble" in its headline.

It warned not to expect any "dramatic theological change" but called his election "inspired".