The church's first South American Pope, Francis, elected in the fifth ballot of the conclave in Rome on Wednesday night, is regarded as a humble man of orthodox theology and wide vision. In his first appearance, on the veranda of St Peter's Basilica, soon after his election, he came across as charming and modest, with a warm smile.
The Jesuit cardinal, who had been Archbishop of Buenos Aires since 1998, won affection and praise for moving into a small apartment rather than living in the episcopal palace, giving up his chauffeur-driven car in favour of public transport where possible, and even cooking his own meals.
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White smoke signalled the new Pope had been elected: Argentinian cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, taking the papal name Francis. Religion editor Barney Zwartz reports from Rome.
In 2005 he was the cardinal the progressives grouped behind, because their main advocate, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, was suffering from Parkinson's disease. He got 40 votes in the last ballot before Joseph Ratzinger was elected as Benedict XVI, but this time the Italian and curial cardinals hoping to avoid Vatican restructuring had no candidate of similar stature.
Once it was clear in the late afternoon on Wednesday that four ballots had passed without success, it seemed obvious that the cardinals would have to turn to a compromise candidate - that neither of the candidates of the two main blocs, Angelo Scola of Milan or Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo, would carry the conclave.
This was not unexpected, but the possible list of compromise candidates seemed so large that many observers thought it might take several more ballots to sort through them. Cardinal Bergoglio's election in just the fifth ballot, on the second day, showed that he must have figured very early.
At one level, this is a bold decision by the cardinals: the first South American pope, the first Jesuit, a man of 76 – only two years younger than Benedict in 2005.
It clearly symbolises their recognition that the centre of gravity in the church has moved south – Latin America has the largest Catholic population in the world. It also indicates their desire to focus on the gospel (the church's message of salvation in Christ) and the recognition of Third World priorities such as under-development and poverty rather than such First World concerns as gay marriage or women priests.
At another level, it is a safe and responsible choice that will be well received by the 1.2 billion Catholics, one-fifth of the world's population, who owe allegiance to the Pope.
As the various cardinals promised in interviews before the conclave, they have ignored questions of geography and age, and gone for the man they regard as the best candidate. Pope Francis has never worked in the curia, the Vatican bureaucracy that has been humiliated by scandals and internal tensions in the past couple of years, and whose reform has been thought to be one of the main issues the new pope will have to address. He has spent his whole career in Buenos Aires.
His attitude to Vatican reform is not yet clear. Much will be revealed by his eventual choice of secretary of state, the No 2. But scandals, such as the infighting and cronyism revealed in the "Vatileaks" episode last year and the ongoing turmoil at the Vatican bank, need urgent attention. He may well allow local bishops more flexibility to engage their differing cultures and challenges than his more authoritarian recent predecessors.
Jorge Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires on December 17, 1936, the son of an Italian immigrant, and began studying for the priesthood with the Jesuits in 1958. He taught literature, psychology and philosophy, before becoming the provincial (head of the order in Argentina) from 1973 to 1979. Then he became rector of a seminary, and studied in Germany before becoming auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires in 1992, archbishop in 1998 and cardinal in 2001.
He is theologically orthodox and a social conservative, especially on issues of sexual morality such as same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion. In 2010, he said that gay adoption was a form of discrimination against children.
It clearly symbolises their recognition that the centre of gravity in the church has moved south.
During the exhilarating years of liberation theology in South America, which was eventually disowned by the Vatican, Bergoglio demanded that the priests follow a more traditional Jesuit spirituality and serve in parishes rather than becoming political activists. But he embraced its central message of "the preferential option for the poor" when many church leaders were complicit with dictators' regimes across the continent.
In 2007, he told Latin American bishops that they lived in the most unequal part of the world, which had reduced misery the least. Unjust distribution created a "social sin that cries out to heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers".
He is credited with modernising one of the most conservative churches in the world, which will stand him in good stead in Italy.
He has good relations with Argentina's Jewish community, speaking out in their defence after the bombing of the Jewish community centre by Iranians in 1994, attending a synagogue in 2007 and holding a Kristallnacht commemoration in his cathedral last year.
Papal names are scrutinised carefully for their significance. It is not certain if Cardinal Bergoglio meant to honour St Francis of Assisi or the great 16th century Jesuit evangelist and martyr St Francis Xavier – or, very likely, both. Simplicity and the gospel will be two values he is eager to identify with.