Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio has been elected by his peers as the new pope, becoming the first pontiff from the Americas.
He has chosen to be known as Pope Francis.
White smoke billowed from the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel earlier Wednesday, indicating the cardinals selected Francis after two days of voting.
The voting came after Benedict XVI stunned the Catholic world last month by becoming the first pope in 600 years to resign. Crowds packing St. Peter’s Square were seen waving flags and were cheering the announcement as bells were ringing.
Chants of “Long live the pope!” arose from the throngs of faithful, many with tears in their eyes. Crowds went wild as the Vatican and Italian military bands marched through the square and up the steps of the basilica, followed by Swiss Guards in silver helmets and full regalia.
Francis became the winner after receiving at least 77 votes, which is more than two thirds of the cardinals.
The new pope is expected to appear on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica within an hour of the vote, after a church official announces “Habemus Papum” — “We have a pope” — and gives the name of the new pontiff in Latin.
Currently inside St. Peter’s Basilica, the elected cardinal will have been asked “Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?”
After giving his approval, the new pope is then asked which name he would like to be called, and other cardinals will approach him to make acts of homage and obedience.
The new pope will also have to be fitted into new robes, and there will be some time taken for prayer and reflection.
Cardinal Protodeacon Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran, of France, will then step out on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica and reveal the pope’s identity to the world.
Elected on the fifth ballot, the new pope was chosen in one of the fastest conclaves in years, remarkable given there was no clear front-runner going into the vote and that the church had been in turmoil following the upheaval unleashed by Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise resignation.
The conclave also played out against revelations of mismanagement, petty bickering, infighting and corruption in the Holy See bureaucracy. Those revelations, exposed by the leaks of papal documents last year, had divided the College of Cardinals into camps seeking a radical reform of the Holy See’s governance and those defending the status quo.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi said it was a “good hypothesis” that the new pope would be installed next Tuesday, on the feast of St. Joseph, patron saint of the universal church. The installation Mass is attended by heads of state from around the world, requiring at least a few days’ notice.
Benedict XVI would not attend, he said.
Thousands of people braved a chilly rain on Wednesday morning to watch the 6-foot-high copper chimney on the chapel roof for the smoke signals telling them whether the cardinals had settled on a choice. Nuns recited the rosary, while children splashed in puddles.
The Vatican on Wednesday divulged the secret recipe used: potassium perchlorate, anthracene, which is a derivative of coal tar, and sulfur for the black smoke; potassium chlorate, lactose and a pine resin for the white smoke.
The chemicals were contained in five units of a cartridge that is placed inside the stove of the Sistine Chapel. When activated, the five blocks ignite one after another for about a minute apiece, creating the steady stream of smoke that accompanies the natural smoke from the burned ballot papers.
Despite the great plumes of white and black smoke that poured out of the chimney, neither the Sistine frescoes nor the cardinals inside the chapel suffered any smoke damage, Lombardi said.