Habemus papam — we have a pope! So went the cheers outside the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City on Wednesday, March 13, when white smoke rose from the chimney, signaling the election of a new pope to lead the Roman Catholic Church following Pope Benedict XVI's resignation.
The identity of the new pope, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was revealed a short time later when the 76-year-old Argentinian Archbishop emerged on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, having been chosen by a group of 115 cardinal-electors. Voting took place by secret ballot on Tuesday and Wednesday in a cloistered meeting known as a conclave.
Pope Francis, as he will be called, is the 266th pontiff in the Church's 2,000-year history and the first to hail from South America.
Pope Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, made history in February when he announced in a letter that he was leaving the Papacy after eight years. His resignation from the post was the first since 1415.
"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," the 85-year-old, German-born Benedict (born Joseph Ratiznger) wrote. "I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering."
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