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Pope Francis elected 266th pontiff of Roman Catholic Church

Posted March 13, 2013

— Argentine Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope Wednesday and chose the papal name Francis, becoming first pontiff from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium.

A stunned-looking Bergoglio shyly waved to the crowd of tens of thousands of people who gathered in St. Peter's Square, marveling that the cardinals had had to look to "the end of the earth" to find a bishop of Rome.

He asked for prayers for himself, and for retired Pope Benedict XVI, whose stunning resignation paved the way for the tumultuous conclave that brought the first Jesuit to the papacy. The cardinal electors overcame deep divisions to select the 266th pontiff in a remarkably fast conclave.

Bergoglio had reportedly finished second in the 2005 conclave that produced Benedict — who last month became the first pope to resign in six centuries.

The 76-year-old archbishop of Buenos Aires has spent nearly his entire career at home in Argentina, overseeing churches and shoe-leather priests.

Tens of thousands of people who braved cold rain to watch the smokestack atop the Sistine Chapel jumped in joy when white smoke poured out a few minutes past 7 p.m. as the bells of St. Peter's Basilica and churches across Rome pealed.

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.

Pope Francis I Pope Francis addresses the world

They played the introduction to the Vatican and Italian anthems and the crowd, which numbered at least 50,000, joined in, waving flags from countries around the world.

"I can't explain how happy I am right down," said Ben Canete, a 32-year-old Filipino, jumping up and down in excitement.

Elected on the fifth ballot, Pope Francis 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.

A winner must receive 77 votes, or two-thirds of the 115, to be named pope.

Vatican Pope New pope hails from Americas

For comparison's sake, Benedict was elected on the fourth ballot in 2005 — but he was the clear front-runner going into the vote. Pope John Paul II was elected on the eighth ballot in 1978 to become the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

Patrizia Rizzo ran down the main boulevard to the piazza with her two children as soon as she heard the news on the car radio. "I parked the car ... and dashed to the square, she said. "It's so exciting, as Romans we had to come."

The conclave played out against the backdrop of the first papal resignation in 600 years and 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.

Sistine Chapel chimney: New pope? White smoke signals new pope

The names mentioned most often as "papabile" — a cardinal who has the stuff of a pope — included Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan, an intellect in the vein of Benedict but with a more outgoing personality, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican's important bishops' office who is also scholarly but reserved like Benedict.

Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer is liked by the Vatican bureaucracy but not by all of his countrymen. And Cardinal Peter Erdo of Hungary has the backing of European cardinals who have twice elected him as head of the European bishops' conference.

On the more pastoral side is Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, the favorite of the Italian press, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the back-slapping, outgoing archbishop of New York who has admitted himself that his Italian is pretty bad — a drawback for a job that is conducted almost exclusively in the language.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi said it was a "good hypothesis" that the 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 would not attend, he said.

Thousands of people braved a chilly rain on Wednesday morning to watch the 6-foot- (2-meter-) 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.

Unlike the confusion that reigned during the 2005 conclave, the smoke this time around was clear: black during the first two sets of smoke signals, and then clearly white on Wednesday night — thanks to special smoke flares akin to those used in soccer matches or protests that were lit in the chapel ovens to accompany the smoke from the burned ballot papers.

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 smoke that poured out of the chimney, neither the Sistine frescoes nor the cardinals inside the chapel suffered any smoke damage, Lombardi said.


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  • ICTrue Mar 13, 2013

    "It seems to me that people worship the Pope. It doesn't seem right to me. Only God should be worshipped. The Pope can't do anything for them that they can't do for themselves."

    It seems to me that you would be wrong.

  • ICTrue Mar 13, 2013

    ""From the Americas? No! He's from Argentina for crying out loud. and since that's south of the Rio Grande, it's Mexico."

    LOL, you sound like one of those people who think that anything west of Charlotte is the West Coast.

  • stymieindurham Mar 13, 2013

    Why all the sensativity??? This guy is just a man . . . . right?

  • Dadof4girls Mar 13, 2013

    The amazing thing about the uninformed on these post and the people who hide behind screen names is they simply want to stir trouble. It is also amazing that on your death bed if you made a bad choice you might want forgiveness. But for now continue to bash and ridicule anyone who tries to have real feelings and opinions. The pope can not be from the United Stated of America at this moment in history due to the power we have as a country. The two most powerful and influential people in the world is the Pope and the President of the United States. That is fact. On a person note I believe in my heart that Pope Francis 1 was and will continue to prove to be a great choice.

  • ConservativeVoter Mar 13, 2013

    "From the Americas? No! He's from Argentina for crying out loud. and since that's south of the Rio Grande, it's Mexico.

    Argentina=South America

    geography is a wonderful thing...learn it
    I am not who you think I am"

    North, South, and Central America are collectively called the Americas.

    Quit being so critical.

  • turbo08 Mar 13, 2013

    "Another geriatric pope. Do they pick such old men as insurance against someone they ultimately may disagree with? At worst, they'll only have to put up with him for a few years..."

    Well if you used "simple logic" then you would agree that someone with experience is right for the job hence the reason why there is a minimum age requirement to run for public office along with countless other things....sigh

  • beaupeep Mar 13, 2013

    I see the Pope-Tracker is not up yet.

  • prodigalrn Mar 13, 2013

    You don't seem to be aware that the Catholic church is the largest, most prolific charity organization in world history. They have helped millions of people in poverty with food, clothing, education and medical care. That's What Jesus Would Do.
    March 13, 2013 4:16 p.m

    But if they're so 'prolific' as you say, then why the millions of dollars in private jets, helicopters and literally priceless artwork? I'm not dissing anyone's religion, but I mean, if you truly go by the Bible, it says it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into heaven. We're all sinners, especially me, but I think that when you start building big, incredible buildings and housing thousands of priceless works of art, then you're kinda missing the whole message, somewhat. Remember what Jesus did in the church to the moneychangers. I'm just putting it out there, I have no room to criticise, just bringing up a point for discussion.

  • Backtothemountains Mar 13, 2013

    Wow more cowbell...yes the AmericaS as in South America?

  • I am not who you think I am Mar 13, 2013

    From the Americas? No! He's from Argentina for crying out loud. and since that's south of the Rio Grande, it's Mexico.

    Argentina=South America

    geography is a wonderful thing...learn it