Argentina’s Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, was elected new Pope Wednesday, a cardinal announced from the Sistine Chapel.
White smoke rose above the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican on Wednesday to herald the election by 115 cardinals of the new, 266th, head of the Roman Catholic Church.
The new Pope, who will lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, took the name of Francis I. He appeared on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, cheered by tens of thousands of rain-soaked people in St. Peter’s Square, who had been awaiting the announcement of the new pontiff’s name.
The successor to Pope Benedict XVI was elected by cardinals from across the world who gathered in the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday evening. A two-thirds majority was required from the papal conclave. Only cardinals under 80 were allowed to participate in the conclave.
Pope Benedict XVI, 85, announced his decision to step down on February 11, blaming his failing health for his inability to "govern the barque of St. Peter." He was the first pontiff to resign in some 600 years. Benedict had become the 265th Pope in 2005 following his predecessor John Paul II’s death.
The last pope to step down before his death was Gregory XII in 1415.
Francis I is the first pontiff from Latin America.
A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church said Wednesday he hoped "positive dynamics" would be preserved in relations with the Roman Catholic Church under its new leader.