Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected pope Wednesday, becoming the first pontiff from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium. He chose the name Francis, associating himself with the humble 13th-century Italian preacher who lived a life of poverty.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Taura made the announcement from the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica.
Tens of thousands of people who braved cold rain to watch the smokestack atop the Sistine Chapel jumped in joy when white smoke poured out, many shouting “Habemus Papam!” or “We have a pope!” - as the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica and churches across Rome pealed.
In his first speech upon being elected pontiff, the newly-elected pope called for “brotherhood” in the Roman Catholic Church and prayed for “pope emeritus” Benedict XVI.
Chants of “Long live the pope!” rose from the throngs of faithful, many with tears in their eyes. Crowds went wild as the Vatican appeared on the square, blaring music, followed by Swiss Guards in silver helmets and full regalia. At least 50,000 people jammed into the square.
Elected on the fifth ballot, the pope was chosen in one of the fastest conclaves in years, remarkable given there was no clear front-runner going into the vote and that the church had been in turmoil following the upheaval unleashed by Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise resignation.
A winner must receive 77 votes, or two-thirds of the 115, to be named pope.
The conclave played out against the backdrop of the first papal resignation in 600 years and revelations of mismanagement, petty bickering, infighting and corruption in the Holy See bureaucracy.
Those revelations, exposed by the leaks of papal documents last year, had divided the College of Cardinals into camps seeking a radical reform of the Holy See’s governance and those defending the status quo.
Latin Americans reacted with joy to news of the first pope from the hemisphere, bursting into tears and cheers.
“It’s incredible!” said Martha Ruiz, 60, who was weeping tears of emotion.
She said she had been in many meetings with the cardinal and said, “He is a man who transmits great serenity.”
At the St. Francis of Assisi church in the colonial Old San Juan district in Puerto Rico, church secretary Antonia Veloz exchanged jubilant high-fives with the priest.
“This is something exciting,” the 50-year-old Veloz said of the new Argentine pope. “I’m speechless."
It’s Francis, not Francis I
The Vatican says the new pope's official name is Pope Francis, without a Roman numeral.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, sought to clear up any possible confusion, noting that Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who announced the name to the world, said simply "Francis." It is also listed that way in the first Vatican bulletin on the new pope.
"It will become Francis I after we have a Francis II," Lombardi quipped.