VATICAN CITY (KDKA/AP) – Argentine Jorge Bergoglio has been elected pope, the first ever from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium. He chose the name Pope Francis.
After announcing “Habemus Papum” – “We have a pope!” – a cardinal standing on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday revealed the identity of the new pontiff, using his Latin name. Bergoglio had reportedly finished second in the 2005 conclave that produced Benedict XVI – who last month became the first pope to resign in 600 years.
The 76-year-old Archbishop of Buenos Aires has spent nearly his entire career at home in Argentina, overseeing churches and shoe-leather priests. He is now the 266th leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
Bergoglio was elected on the fifth ballot Wednesday, ending the conclave on its second day.
In his first address to the city and to the world, the newly-elected Pope Francis told the crowd in St. Peter’s Square, “Thank you so much for welcoming me, and please pray for me.”
White smoke began billowing from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel around 7 p.m. local time, signifying that 115 cardinals in a papal conclave had elected a new leader for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
Bells tolled outside The Vatican and across Rome as tens of thousands filled St. Peter’s Square to witness history.
The crowd in St. Peter’s Square then erupted into thunderous cheers as the new pope emerged on the balcony and greeted the world.
The conclave was called after Pope Benedict XVI resigned last month, throwing the church into turmoil and exposing deep divisions among cardinals tasked with finding a manager to clean up a corrupt Vatican bureaucracy as well as a pastor who can revive Catholicism in a time of growing secularism.
Cardinals voted twice Wednesday morning in the Vatican’s famed frescoed chapel following their inaugural vote Tuesday to elect a successor to Benedict XVI.
The cardinals broke for lunch at the Vatican hotel and return for another two rounds of voting Wednesday afternoon.
Pittsburgh-native Cardinal Donald Wuerl was among the cardinals under the age of 80 who participated in the conclave. Wuerl was born in Pittsburgh in 1940 and was named Bishop of Pittsburgh by Pope John Paul II in 1988.
The cardinals spent the night sequestered in the Vatican’s Santa Marta hotel, an impersonal modern hotel on the edge of the Vatican gardens. They have no access to television, newspapers, cell phones or computers, and all the hotel staff have taken an oath of secrecy to not reveal anything they see or hear.
The actual voting takes place in far more evocative surroundings: the Sistine Chapel frescoed by Michelangelo in the 16th century with scenes of “Creation” and “The Last Judgment.”
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