The world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics have a new spiritual
leader, and for the first time is is someone from the
As afternoon turned to evening in Vatican City on Wednesday, a
little after 7 p.m. local time, white smoke rose from a chimney
above the Sistine Chapel and bells rang through St. Peter's Square
- the traditional signals that the church's cardinals have chosen a
A little more than an hour later, his identity was announced:
76-year-old Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires,
Argentina. He comes from a region of the world with 483 million
Catholics - about 40 percent of all the church's faithful. A Jesuit
priest, he chose the name Francis - seen by some as a sign he wants
to unite the church, because Franciscans have been traditional
rivals of Jesuits. No other pope has chosen that name, which as
National Catholic Reporter reminds us honors "the 12th century
saint known for his simple lifestyle and dedication to the works of
Now, as NPR's Sylvia Poggioli has said, the new pope and the
church face a choice: "Whether to continue an inward looking
conservative path or to open up to the broader world of the
faithful and introduce more collegiality, as had been indicated by
the reforms of the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago."
The papal selection came after five votes by the 115 cardinals
eligible to cast ballots. They voted once on Tuesday, twice
Wednesday morning and then twice again on Wednesday afternoon. It
takes a two-thirds majority (77 in this case) to become pope.
We followed the news of the papal announcement as it happened,
and then collected reports about the new pope and reactions to his
There will be additional posts as the evening continues, and
we'll start over again in the morning with more news about the new
pope. Meanwhile, here's how the story played out after the white
smoke appeared above the Vatican. Scroll down and "read up" if you
want to see it in chronological order:
Update at 4:30 p.m. ET. Obama Calls New Pope "A
Champion Of The Poor":
"On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our
warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair
of Saint Peter and begins his papacy," President Obama says in a
statement sent to reporters. "As a champion of the poor and the
most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and
compassion that has inspired the world for more than 2,000 years -
that in each other we see the face of God."
The president adds that:
"As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also
speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is
increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic
Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this
historic day. Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict
XVI, I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace,
security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of
their faith. We join with people around the world in offering our
prayers for the Holy Father as he begins the sacred work of leading
the Catholic Church in our modern world."
Update at 4:15 p.m. ET. He Was "Runner-Up" Last
"Though it's hard to say how seriously one should take the
specifics, the general consensus is that Bergoglio was indeed the
'runner-up' last time around," National Catholic Reporter's John
Allen wrote earlier this month. "He appealed to conservatives in
the College of Cardinals as a man who had held the line against
liberalizing currents among the Jesuits, and to moderates as a
symbol of the church's commitment to the developing world."
Allen added that:
"Bergoglio is seen an unwaveringly orthodox on matters of
sexual morality, staunchly opposing abortion, same-sex marriage,
and contraception. In 2010 he asserted that gay adoption is a form
of discrimination against children, earning a public rebuke from
Argentina's President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Nevertheless, he has shown deep compassion for the victims of
HIV-AIDS; in 2001, he visited a hospice to kiss and wash the feet
of 12 AIDS patients.
"Bergoglio also won high marks for his compassionate response
to the 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires of a seven-story building
housing the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association and the Delegation
of the Argentine Jewish Association."
Update at 4 p.m. ET. Choice Of Name Signals Desire For
Analysis from the respected Whispers in the Loggia blog:
"By choosing the name of the founder of his community's
traditional rivals, the 266th Roman pontiff - the first from the
American continent, home to more than half of the 1.2
billion-member church - has signaled three things: his desire to be
a force of unity in a polarized fold, a heart for the poor, and his
intent to 'repair God's house, which has fallen into ruin' ... that
is, to rebuild the church."
Update at 3:55 p.m. ET. Known As "Father
"Cardinal Bergoglio has had a growing reputation as a very
spiritual man with a talent for pastoral leadership serving in a
region with the largest number of the world's Catholics," reports
Catholic News Service.
It adds that:
"Since 1998, he has been archbishop of Buenos Aires, where his
style is low-key and close to the people. He rides the bus, visits
the poor, lives in a simple apartment and cooks his own meals. To
many in Buenos Aires, he is known simply as 'Father Jorge.'
"He also has created new parishes, restructured the
administrative offices, led pro-life initiatives and started new
pastoral programs, such as a commission for divorcees. He
co-presided over the 2001 Synod of Bishops and was elected to the
synod council, so he is well-known to the world's bishops.
"The cardinal has also written books on spirituality and
meditation and has been outspoken against abortion and same-sex
Argentina's La Nacion writes that "when he travels to Rome, he
doesn't like to reveal that he is a cardinal. That's why he is
frequently seen wearing a black overcoat. Also, he when he was
declared a cardinal, he decided not to buy new clothing. Instead,
he ordered that the clothing of the previous cardinal be mended to
Update at 3:26 p.m. ET. Thanks And The Lord's
From a balcony above St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis I's
first words to the world's Catholics expressed some surprise. He
said the cardinals have "chosen one from far away, but here I
He thanked all those who support him, and then led those in
St. Peter's Square in prayers: the "Our Father" and a "Hail
Update at 3:23 p.m. ET. Pope Has Chosen To Be Called
The Vatican's communications office just tweeted that the new
pope will be "Francesco I," or Francis I.
Update at 3:20 p.m. ET. A Jesuit.
When NPR was profiling potential popes in 2005, the year
Benedict was chosen, it wrote that Bergoglio was:
"Trained as a chemist ... became a priest when he was 32 and
an archbishop in 1998. Bergoglio is a Jesuit, which would make him
an unusual and perhaps controversial choice for the papacy. His
academic credentials abound: He pursued theological studies in
Germany, has published three books and has served as grand
chancellor of The Catholic University in Argentina. Bergoglio has
been praised as being a 'good pastor' with a 'strong capacity for
governance with unusual gifts of humility.' Indeed, the archbishop
shuns a chauffeur-driven limousine, in favor of public
Update at 3:16 p.m. ET. It's Cardinal Jorge Mario
Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina:
According to Vatican Radio, the new pope is Cardinal Jorge
Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It isn't known what
papal name he's chosen. Bergoglio is 76.
Update at 3:12 p.m. ET. Moments Away:
The curtains have opened. The new pope is about to be
announced. Click here to see Catholic News Service's list of the
cardinals' birth names in Latin (which will help sort out who the
Update at 3:05 p.m. ET. Well In Time For Upcoming Holy
The selection of a pope now means that he will be in place
well ahead of several key days coming up in Catholics' liturgical
- Palm Sunday, on March 24.
- Good Friday, on March 29.
- Easter on March 31.
Update at 2:55 p.m. ET. "And So I Say To You, You Are
The Whispers in the Loggio blog notes that "the front-page of
the Vatican website" is now devoted to Matthew 16:13-19:
"When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked
his disciples, 'Who do people say that the Son of Man is?'
"They replied, 'Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.'
"He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?'
"Simon Peter said in reply, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of
the living God.'
"Jesus said to him in reply, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of
Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my
" 'And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I
will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not
prevail against it.
" 'I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever
you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose
on earth shall be loosed in heaven.' "
Peter would become the church's first pope.
Update at 2:50 p.m. ET. But Sooner Than
On Talk of the Nation moments ago, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli said
"it was unexpected that [the choice would be made] so fast. This is
just one ballot more than the election of [Benedict] in 2005 and he
was a shoo-in. ... The fact that they did this quite fast, in five
ballots, means they probably wanted to give a sign of unity in the
church at a time when it is being buffeted by so many
Update at 2:45 p.m. ET. Five Ballots Is In Line With
In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI was elected on the fourth ballot,
as this list from Radio Vatican shows. In papal elections before
that: it took eight ballots to settle on Pope John Paul II in 1978;
four ballots to elect Pope John Paul I in 1978; and six ballots to
elect Pope Paul VI in 1963.
Update at 2:40 p.m. ET. Pageantry:
As you can see on the streaming coverage from
RadioVaticanVideo, now that there's a new pope the Swiss Guards are
back on active duty. As a band played, they just marched into the
Update 2:35 p.m. ET. Inside The Sistine Chapel,
Wednesday Was "Super Tuesday."
National Catholic Reporter's John Allen writes that today's
"four rounds of voting loom[ed] as the make-or-break test for
whoever emerged yesterday as the early front-runner or
front-runners." It was the Vatican equivalent, he says, of the
Super Tuesday primaries in American presidential elections that
often determine nominees.
Update at 2:30 p.m. ET. Changing Into
The Associated Press writes that the 266th pope "now changes
into his papal white cassock, and one-by-one the cardinals approach
him to swear their obedience. He will stop and pray in the Pauline
Chapel for a few minutes before emerging on the loggia of the
balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square. Preceding him to the
balcony is French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the protodeacon, who
announces 'Habemus Papam!' Latin for 'We have a pope' and then
introduces him to the world in Latin. He then emerges and delivers
his first public words as the leader of the world's 1.2 billion
Update at 2:20 p.m. ET. First Clue To Identity Will Be
Latin Version Of His Birth Name:
The new pope "will be introduced to those in the square below
by French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, assuming Tauran himself has
not been elected, by the Latin version of his birth name following
Tauran's proclamation of the Latin phrase Habemus papam' ('We have
a pope'),' writes National Catholic Reporter.
It adds that:
"Those in the square will be listening now to which first name
Tauran gives. For example, should he begin introducing the new pope
as 'Ioannem,' Latin for Sean, John, Juan or Giovanni, there are
several possibilities for who the new pope is. Should Tauran say
something more unique, perhaps 'Donaldum' for Donald or 'Aloisium'
for Luis, the selection will become apparent more quickly."
We posted Tuesday on "5 Things About Popes And Their Names;
Like, Why Do They Change Them?"
Update at 2:12 p.m. ET. Who Is It? We'll Know
According to Vatican Radio, which is streaming its coverage on
YouTube, the identity of the new pope - who will appear on a
balcony above St. Peter's Square - should be known within an hour
or so. At this moment, Vatican Radio says, he's likely changing
from the vestments he's worn as a cardinal into those made for a