VATICAN CITY (CBS/AP) — 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 600 years.
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.
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., many shouting “Habemus Papam!” or “We have a pope!” — 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.
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, 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.
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.”
Latin Americans reacted with joy, bursting into tears and cheers on Wednesday at news that an Argentine cardinal has become the first pope from the hemisphere.
“It’s incredible!” said Martha Ruiz, 60, who was weeping tears of emotion after learning that the cardinal she knew as Jorge Mario Bergoglio will now be Pope Francis.
She said she had been in many meetings with the cardinal and said, “He is a man who transmits great serenity.”
Cars honked their horns as the news spread and television announcers screamed with elation and surprise and Catholics began flooding toward the cathedral, where Ana Maria Perez and a few dozen other women had been waiting for the announcement.
“He is going to be the pope of the street,” she said, referring to Bergoglio’s habit of taking the subways alongside working class Argentines.
There was excitement as well elsewhere.
At the St. Francis of Assisi church in the colonial Old San Juan district in Puerto Rico, church secretary Antonia Veloz exchanged jubilant high-fives with Jose Antonio Cruz, a Franciscan friar.
Cruz said he personally favored the Brazilian candidate, but was pleased with the outcome, saying the new pope would help revitalize the church.
“It’s a huge gift for all of Latin America. We waited 20 centuries. It was worth the wait,” said Cruz, wearing the brown cassock tied with a rope that is the signature of the Franciscan order. “Everyone from Canada down to Patagonia is going to feel blessed. This is an event.”
“This is something exciting,” the 50-year-old Veloz said of the new Argentine pope. “I’m speechless.” In Santo Domingo, the bells pealed in the city’s main cathedral in the colonial district.
In Panama City, public relations executive Nelsa Aponte said with teary eyes, “This made me cry, I had to get out my handkerchief.”
“We have a new pastor, and for the first time, he is from Latin America.”
Armando Connell, 54, a doorman at a luxury hotel in Panama City, expressed hope that “the new pope will be closer to us, and will show more concern about the poverty many of us suffer.”
In Mexico City, pediatrician Victor De la Rosa, 64, said the decision “is going to allow Latin America to be more involved in the church’s decisions, above all in modernizing the church.”
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