Friday's gathering, aired on Vatican TV, gave the new pontiff a chance to catch up with the cardinals who were not eligible to vote in the conclave -- those age 80 or older. That's nearly half of all cardinals.
Remarking on the fact that many are getting on in years, he said the cardinals should pass on their experience to younger generations. "Wisdom is like a good bottle of wine, and we must give it to the young people," he said.
The pope, dressed simply in white, then exchanged a few warm words with each cardinal as they left the hall one by one.
Come Tuesday, St. Peter's Square will again bustle with the faithful, tourists and locals during the official Mass to inaugurate Francis as the bishop of Rome.
The choice of day to anoint him as the holy father of the Roman Catholic Church carries a rich symbolism: It is the day that Catholics celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph to honor Jesus' father on Earth, the carpenter Joseph. It also happens to be Father's Day in Italy.
Foreign dignitaries and heads of state are welcome to attend but by tradition don't receive a specific invitation, Lombardi said.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is to lead the U.S. presidential delegation for the Mass, the White House said Friday, with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi also among the party. On Friday, House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, said he will send a separate bipartisan congressional delegation.
On Saturday, Francis will give an audience to the media. He will probably hold Mass on Sunday, then deliver the traditional Angelus, one of the most common Catholic prayers, the spokesman said.
Palm Sunday is just a week later, and the new pontiff will be busy, as it is the holiday that kicks off Holy Week, which culminates in Easter celebrations.
A new direction
Rosica, the Vatican spokesman, said that Francis was making his own mark as the 266th pope -- and shaking things up a little.
As head of the church, the Argentine is following the same path he took during his years as archbishop in Buenos Aires, he told CNN.
"He was a pastor there, very close to the people, and he's continued that -- he's simply changed the color of his robes right now, and the world is paying attention to every move, every word, every gesture," Rosica said.
"Those of us who were used to him in Buenos Aires are not at all surprised with this, but I can tell you that it does send some jolts through the system here, which is so deeply rooted in tradition and beautiful ceremonies and following the Book.
"Pope Francis is telling us that the Book is very important, but there's even something more important: Be faithful, be close to the people, smile and take things as they come."
Lombardi, in the news briefing, gave a similar message. "We are all learning how to behave around the holy father. We don't have instructions yet from him on how he wants to be treated," he said.
Rosica said the media's focus on the scandals surrounding the church missed the point of why Francis was elected as pope.
"The cardinals chose someone who is a model of holiness, they chose someone who has a real passion for evangelization ... which is more than just a buzzword, this is what the church is all about.
"They chose someone who has an extraordinary record for compassion, for relating to people not just within the Catholic Church ... but those on the fringes, the poor, the destitute, the disenfranchised, those living in irregular relationships, those who have suffered, those who have brought suffering upon themselves."