Pope's 'stunning' name choice an intriguing first
- Argentina's Cardinal Bergoglio becomes Pope Francis
- Jesuit Pope a first for 'God's Marines'
- Simply the best (compromise) candidate
- Humble man who took bus to work
There have been 23 Johns and 16 Gregories. Plus 15 Benedicts, 14 Clements and 13 each of Leo and Innocent.
But for 2000 years, no pope has taken the moniker Francis. Until now.
Newly-elected Pope Francis appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica. Photo: Getty Images
It's been described by one expert as "the most stunning choice", because of its links to St Francis of Assisi, the 13th-century reformer who lived in poverty and told followers: "Preach the Gospel always; if necessary, use words."
Just like there's been no Pope Peter since the first one in 33AD, so too did incoming pontiffs shy away from the name Francis – because St Francis' deeds were seen as "irrepeatable".
"The new pope is sending a signal that this will not be business as usual," Vatican expert John Allen told CNN.
An extra edition of a Colombian newspaper with the announcement of the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new Pope Francis. Photo: AFP
However, other commentators have suggested the name is a tribute to a revered Jesuit.
Observers attach great importance to a new pope's chosen name, drawing on the Latin maxim "nomen est omen", which means "a name is a sign".
It follows the tradition of the ancient Romans, whose emperors took new names or titles when they assumed power.
New pope elected: white smoke emerges from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel. Photo: AP
Part of the reason people are looking for a shift in direction from the Pope is in the connotations "Francis" has in church history.
In a detail of potential significance, a key moment in St Francis' life was when he heard a divine message in the church of San Damiano in Italy, which said: “Go, repair my house which, as you see, is falling completely to ruin."
Observers see parallels between between the crumbling church of the 13th century and the church today.
Meet Pope Francis
Priest Jorge Mario Bergoglio, actual Cardinal and Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. 1973 Photo: AP
Pope Francis' preoccupation with social justice in Argentina echoes a similar focus in Saint Francis' life – something that has been noted by Vatican-watchers.
Father Andrew Hamilton, a Melbourne-based Jesuit priest, gave a different suggestion: "Francis Xavier is a Jesuit saint who travelled to India, worked in Japan, tried to get to China and worked through Indonesia back in the 16th century ... one of the people who brought faith to people. So there's a very significant direction suggested by those two names."
Critics of the Catholic Church under Benedict and John Paul II have blamed the church's conservative stance for worsening some of the child sex-abuse scandal.
They also accuse the institution of failing to address looming social and economic injustices in society.
Whether Pope Francis steers the troubled church into a new path, only time will tell.
Based on the jubilation of the crowds, there is no shortage of expectation for change.
Reuters, Barney Zwartz and Megan Levy