Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who on Wednesday was elected to lead the world's 1 billion Catholics, has strongly opposed gay marriage.

Bergoglio is the first South American to lead the church. The 76-year-old pope will be called Francis, the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.

Dressed in white, the new pope addressed the thousands who had gathered in St. Peter's Basilica to welcome his arrival.

“I would like to thank you for your embrace,” he said.

In 2010, as Argentina debated a marriage equality bill, Bergoglio called on Catholics to oppose the move, calling it the devil's handiwork.

“Let's not be naïve, we're not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God,” Bergoglio wrote in a letter calling on followers to join a protest rally in Buenos Aires.

“We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a move by the Father of Lies which aims to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

Bergoglio went on to say that gay adoption is discriminatory to children: “At stake are the lives of many children who'll be discriminated against in being deprived of the human growth that God wanted to be given through a father and a mother.”

Bergoglio's comments were criticized by Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kircher, who signed the bill into law. The president called such references unproductive and a throwback to the Inquisition.

A confidant of Bergoglio later explained that he felt trapped between the government and its rival Hector Aguer, the conservative archbishop of La Plata, and reacted as a “soldier of God.”

“He has nothing against homosexuals or transvestites,” the confidant said, “and has never discriminated against them in his pastoral duties.”