The world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics have a new spiritual leader, and for the first time it is someone from the Americas.
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 new pope.
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 mercy."
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 selection. We've also got posts about:
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 Time:
"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 Unity.
"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 Jorge":
"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 marriages."
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 fit him."
Update at 3:26 p.m. ET. Thanks And The Lord's Prayer:
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 am."
He thanked all those who support him, and then led those in St. Peter's Square in prayers: the "Our Father" and a "Hail Mary."
Update at 3:23 p.m. ET. Pope Has Chosen To Be Called "Francis":
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 transportation."
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 choice is).
Update at 3:05 p.m. ET. Well In Time For Upcoming Holy Days:
The selection of a pope now means that he will be in place well ahead of several key days coming up in Catholics' liturgical calendar:
-- 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 Peter."
"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 heavenly Father.
" '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.' "
Update at 2:50 p.m. ET. But Sooner Than Expected?
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 crises."
Update at 2:45 p.m. ET. Five Ballots Is In Line With Recent History:
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 square.
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 White:
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 Catholics."
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 Soon:
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 pope alone.
Catholic News Service adds that "the Vatican estimated it would be about an hour before Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the top-ranking cardinal deacon, would come out onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and confirm the election with the phrase 'Habemus papam' (We have a pope)."