The Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been elected as the new pope. He becomes the first Latin American, as well as the first Jesuit leader of the Catholic Church.
In his first words after election, the man who will be known as Pope Francis said: “As you know the duty of the conclave is to give Rome a bishop. It seems that my brother cardinals went almost to the end of the world!”
Bergoglio becomes the first pope to choose a name in tribute to Saint Francis of Assisi, the 13th century reformer who lived in poverty and told followers: “Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words.”
White smoke was released from the Sistine Chapel shortly after 19:00 CET on March 13, signalling that the Vatican had elected a new pope.
As bells rang out over St. Peter’s Square in Rome, a crowd of thousands huddled under umbrellas cheered.
The identity of the new pontiff was revealed to the world from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica by French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.
Pope Francis then stepped forward to deliver his first public address and blessing to the gathered faithful, asking for the prayers of “all men and women of good will” to help him lead the Catholic Church.
Speaking Italian with a slight Latin American accent he added the world should set off on a path of love and fraternity.
He concluded by bidding the huge crowd: “Good night and have a good rest.”
Roman Catholic cardinals took part in the secret voting process, known as the conclave, to select a successor for Pope Benedict XVI, who stepped down on February 28.
The white smoke came on the evening of the second day of the conclave – with the cardinals reaching agreement earlier than many analysts predicted.
The last four popes were all elected within two or three days.
Seven ballots have been required on average over the last nine conclaves. Benedict was clear frontrunner in 2005 and elected after only four ballots.
The new pope asked the crowd to join him in a prayer for his predecessor, now known as the emeritus Pope.
Pope Francis is said to have appeal across the Catholic Church – although many will note that at 76, he is only two years younger than Benedict was when he became pope.