The new Pope has been unveiled as Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, who will take the name Pope Francis I.
The 76-year-old was welcomed by tens of thousands of overjoyed Catholics in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City after his election was revealed this afternoon at 6pm GMT when white smoke poured out of the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.
Pope Francis becomes the first South American Pontiff and the first Jesuit to hold the title. His South American origin is a significant move for the Church, taking the Papacy to a continent in which 42 per cent of the world’s Catholics live.
The reformist becomes the third non-Italian Pope in a row, having being born and spent his life in the Argentinian capital.
He began his address to the crowd with a joke, saying that his brother cardinals had gathered to pick a bishop of Rome ‘and they have chosen one from far away but here I am’. He then asked for prayers for his living predecessor.
He said: ‘First and foremost I would like to pray for our emeritus Pope Benedict XVI that Christ and the Madonna watch over him.
‘Let us being this journey together, this journey for the Roman Catholic Church. It’s a journey of friendship and love and faith between us. Let us pray for one another, let us pray for all the world.’
Then he asks the crowd to be silent for a moment and pray for him as he accepts this new position.
Pope Francis is multilingual, speaking German, Spanish and Italian.
Tens of thousands cheered in St. Paul’s Square at the sight of the symbolic plumes, announcing that the successor to Benedict XVI had finally been chosen after two days of intense voting.
After hours braving the cold rain, the huge crowd chanted ‘Habemus Papam’ and ‘We have a pope’ – as the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica and other churches across Rome pealed.
As excitement grew before the Pope Francis’s imminent appearance on the loggia, the crowd repeated the refrain ‘Viva il Papa’ – translated as ‘Long live the Pope’.
The new Pope was dressed in his papal robes and joined in prayer with the other cardinals before his appearance.
The conclave was called after Pope Benedict XVI resigned last month for health reasons, sending the church into turmoil and exposing deep divisions among cardinals tasked with finding a replacement to address issues within the church.
Chants of `Long live the pope’ arose from the throngs of Catholics, many with tears in their eyes and the crowds buzzed with excitement as the Vatican and Italian military bands marched through the square and up the steps of the basilica.
They were followed by Swiss Guards, dressed in silver helmets and full regalia.
A result on only the first full day of voting in the Papal election surprised many who thought that the process would take several days.
This was because there appeared to be no clear front runner in the election of the 266th Pontiff. It was also thought it may be longer conclave as the previous Pope had not died.
The election of the new Pope had one more ballot as that in 2005 when Joseph Ratzinger was elected and became Benedict XVI in what was one of the quickest elections of all time.
On the first evening of that election black smoke appeared from the Sistine Chapel’s chimney before a further two votes the following morning did not get a result either. However the third ballot saw Benedict XVI elected after only 26 hours of debate.
The election of the new Pope is likely to be among the fastest of all time, alongside the conclave that saw Pius Xii chosen after 20 hours in 1939.