Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has greeted crowds in Rome’s St Peter’s Square after his election as the Catholic Church’s new Pope. Appearing on a balcony over the square, he asked the faithful to pray for him. Cheers erupted as he gave a blessing. The first Latin American and the first Jesuit to be pontiff, he will call himself Francis I. An hour earlier, white smoke from the Sistine Chapel chimney announced the new Pope’s election.
Pope Francis, 76, replaces Benedict XVI, who resigned last month at the age of 85, saying he was not strong enough to lead the Church.
There was elation on a rain-strewn St Peter’s Square as the white smoke billowed from the rusty chimney. Brollies bounced and flags swayed as the basilica bells rang out.
The crowd swelled as Rome converged on the square, priests and pilgrims running to catch a glimpse of their new leader.
“Viva il papa!” they chanted, as they waited to learn his name. Once the crowd had been told, the chants quickly turned to: “Fran-ces-co! Fran-ces-co!”
And then, to trumpet fanfare, the balcony curtains parted and the new Pope appeared above them, to bless them – but only after he had asked them to pray with him, and for him. The people were touched, and roared their approval. Among them was Jenny Uebbing. Originally from Denver but now living in Rome, she said her son John-Paul was one of the last babies Benedict XVI blessed before he resigned. “We had to be here to say hello to the new papa,” she tol
d the BBC. “It’s been a long Lent but now it feels like Easter has come early.”
French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran announced his election with the Latin words “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum. Habemus Papam” (“I announce to you a great joy. We have a Pope”). The election was met with thunderous applause at the cathedral in Buenos Aires, his home city. Correspondents say he was a surprise choice and not among a small group of frontrunners before the election. Many observers were also expecting a younger pope to be elected.
The 115 cardinals have been in isolation since Tuesday afternoon, and held four inconclusive votes. At least 77 of them, or two-thirds, would have had to vote for a single candidate for him to be elected Pope. Before the conclave began, there was no clear frontrunner to replace Benedict. Crowds with umbrellas massed in the square flying flags from around the world. The Catholic News Agency said people were running through the streets of Rome, hoping to reach St Peter’s Square in time for the appearance of the new Pope.