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Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio now named Pope Francis, first pontiff from Americas

Published: Wednesday, March 13 2013 12:45 p.m. MDT

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran announces the newly elected Pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who took the name of Pope Francis, elected on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Michael Sohn, ASSOCIATED PRESS

VATICAN CITY — Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected as pope to lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics on Wednesday, overcoming deep divisions to select the 266th pontiff in a remarkably fast conclave. Bergoglio is the first pontiff from the Americas.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran announced the newly elected Pope, who took the name of Pope Francis, to the Roman Catholic Church from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.

Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope and has spent nearly his entire career at home in Argentina.

The former Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, reportedly got the second-most votes after Joseph Ratzinger, the last pope, in the 2005 papal election. He has long specialized in the kind of pastoral work overseeing churches and priests that some say is an essential skill for a pope.

In a lifetime of teaching and leading priests in Latin America, which has the largest share of the world's Catholics, the former Bergoglio has shown a keen political sensibility as well as a self-effacing humility, according to his official biographer, Sergio Rubin. His personal style is the antithesis of Vatican splendor.

Bergoglio is also known for modernizing an Argentine church that had been among the most conservative in Latin America.

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.

The pope, whose identity isn't yet known, is due to emerge from the loggia overlooking St. Peter's Square to deliver his first words as the bishop of Rome. The lag time was giving Romans plenty of time to get to St. Peter's, and a steady stream of pilgrims and tourists were making their way.

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, the 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.

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."

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.

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