Pope Francis Setting 'a Good Example'

03/23/2013 at 09:00 AM EDT

Pope Francis Setting 'a Good Example'
Pope Francis
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty
On his first day as head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis woke at 5:30 a.m. and, after morning prayers, returned to the Rome hotel where he spent his last hours as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, to settle his bill of 72.50 euros per night ($93.87). He did so, Holy See spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi tells PEOPLE, "to set a good example."

Was it a first? Perhaps. Already this first New World Jesuit pope has set a number of precedents. For many, the election of Francis, 76, inspires optimism amidst shrinking church membership and sexual-abuse scandals.

"We hope he brings the changes that we all wish for," says his sister María Elena Bergoglio, 65. "That the Church opens up to the world so that we can all participate."

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