Barney Zwartz in Rome: Argentinian cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has become the first Pope from the Americas in the history of the Church, taking the papal name of Francis.
French cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran made the announcement from the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica.
Francis is the first non-European Pope in more than 1200 years, a choice that reflects the shifting demographics of the Roman Catholic faith.
Newly-elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica. Photo: Getty Images
Bergoglio, 76, is the archbishop of Buenos Aires and is believed to have been the runner-up to Benedict XVI at the last conclave in 2005.
He chose the name of Pope Francis for his pontificate and was greeted by thousands of cheering faithful as he stepped out on a balcony overlooking St Peter’s Square to be presented to the world for the first time as pope.
‘‘Brothers and sisters, good evening,’’ Bergoglio said in Italian in his first words to the crowd.
New pope elected: white smoke emerges from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel. Photo: AP
''You know that the work of the conclave is to give a bishop to Rome. It seems as if my brother cardinals went to find him from the end of the earth. Thank you for the welcome.''
White smoke billowed from a Sistine Chapel chimney to signal Pope Francis’ election, replacing frail Benedict XVI as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
The tens of thousands gathered in St Peter’s Square erupted into cheers, and the bells started ringing. As news spread through the Vatican and the wider city, excited crowds scrambled to join the already busy square, agog to see who might appear on the balcony of St Peter’s.
New pope: Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Photo: AP
He is the 266th pope in the Catholic Church’s 2000-year history.
Cardinals have been locked up behind the Vatican walls and cut off from the outside world since Tuesday, meeting in a sublime Renaissance chapel swept for recording devices and installed with scramblers to prevent any communication.
The decision came after five votes - longer than for Benedict’s succession to late Pope John Paul II in 2005, which was decided in just four votes.
Joy: people celebrate the election of a new pope. Photo: Reuters
The historic election after Benedict’s abrupt resignation last month was being followed around the world on live television as well as through social media and smartphone apps - this is the first ever tweeted conclave.
The smoke from the chimney was produced by burning the ballots and setting off smoke flares in two stoves specially installed in a corner of the chapel.
It was another wet day in Rome, and the Italians’ reckless use of umbrellas combined with pilgrims lifting cameras over their heads to capture the crowd made the square a risk to limb, if not life.
White smoke rises from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. Photo: Reuters
Bergoglio took the name Francis, apparently in honour of St Francis of Assisi. Cardinal Bergoglio’s election was something of a surprise, given his age, but his pedigree is strong, as shown by his status at the last conclave. He has been archbishop of Buenos Aires since 1998.
He was elected with the fourth and final ballot on Wednesday, the fifth overall, and at 7.07pm, Rome time, white smoke poured from the Sistine Chapel chimney.
After about an hour, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the senior cardinal-deacon, appeared on the verandah at St Peter’s basilica and announced the time-honoured phrase, "I have tidings of great joy: Habemus papam!" (we have a Pope!). He then introduced, still in Latin, Cardinal Bergoglio, Francis.
The faithful wait under their umbrellas at St Peter's square. Photo: AFP
The delay between the smoke and appearance was thanks to other ancient rituals. After the announcement to the cardinal voters in the Sistine Chapel, the new Pope must accept the election and pronounce his new name.
He then goes to the "room of tears", a small room by the chapel, so named for the emotional impact new popes often feel, and there he changes his red cassock for a white one, and other papal vestments.
Next there was a brief prayer ceremony with the cardinals, each of whom then approached the Pope and promised obedience.
White Smoke: new pope elected
Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio has been elected pope, taking the name Francis. Photo: AP Photo
Pope Francis spoke to the crowd, delivering the urbi et orbi, blessing to city and world. After a few brief words, it was "Buona notte e buon riposo", "good night and sleep well", and the bells and band burst forth again.
The Associated Press reported on March 4 that the election of an Italian-speaking pope from Argentina helps to reconcile two trends within the Catholic Church: the push to return to the tradition of Italian popes, and the longing for a pontiff from the developing world. Bergoglio also speaks Spanish and German.
Although few Vatican watchers expected white smoke on Wednesday, crowds gathered during the afternoon, anticipation rising. At 4.20pm (2.20am AEDT) the big screens around the square lit up, overlooking a sea of umbrellas through which the faithful patiently peered. By 5pm Roman time (3am AEDT), the earliest a successful ballot could be expected, the square was full, pilgrims chattering with each other or waiting silently, eyes fixed on the screens. Several times a seagull perched on top of the chimney, leading well-wishers to hope it did not suddenly inhale chemical-filled smoke.
Bergoglio was ordained by the Jesuits on December 13, 1969. He studied at Theological Faculty of San Miguel in Buenos Aires, where he received a degree in philosophy.
- with agencies