Update 3: New Pope Elected - Pope Francis from Argentina
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, has been elected Pope after a two-day conclave ended with white smoke billowing from the small chimney atop the Sistine Chapel.
The Archbishop of Buenos Aires, a Jesuit, will be known as Pope Francis.
His name came as a surprise to many in the large crowd gathered under the rain in St Peter’s Square yesterday evening to wait for the election of a new Pope.
Cardinal Bergoglio’s name was never among those touted to take the place vacated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI last month.
But an ecstatic crowd soon overcame the initial hesitation and warmed to the man, shouting “Viva Papa Francesco” (hail Pope Francis) when he stepped onto the main balcony overlooking the Vatican’s main square shortly after 8pm.
After standing still for a few seconds without acknowledging the crowd, almost looking shell-shocked, Pope Francis greeted the faithful with the words: “Brothers and sisters, good evening.”
Speaking in Italian he then cracked a joke about how the 115 cardinals entrusted to find an archbishop for Rome – the Pope is also considered to be Rome’s archbishop – went to find one “at the other end of the world”.
He then prayed for Benedict and asked the faithful to walk with him in this new journey. “Let us pray for each other... Let this journey be fruitful for evangalisation but before I give you my blessing, I ask you to bless me and pray over me,” he said as he lowered his head and a silent square acceded to his request. Pope Francis then blessed the crowd, bade it farewell and asked people to go and rest.
It had been a long day for pilgrims gathered in Rome to witness the conclave.They came from far flung places like Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines and Malta, but the vast majority were Italians keen on seeing the return of an Italian pope.
Few expected the conclave to be over by yesterday, with speculation rife that a decision was expected by Thursday evening.
But at 4pm people started filling St Peter’s Square despite the incessant rain. As multi-coloured umbrellas bobbed up and down, some sang, others recited the rosary and many made small talk with their friends.
They looked towards the chimney expecting the smoke signal to come at around 5pm but to no avail. It was a sign that the third vote of the day - another two inconclusive elections were held in the morning - was also inconclusive.
And then they waited for the final outcome, which was expected around 7.30pm, when shortly after 7pm the crowd threw up a thunderous cheer as the chimney spewed white smoke.
The Catholic Church had a Pope and people rushed to various vantage points to get a glimpse of their new shepherd.
They waited for anther hour as the Swiss Guards marched onto the basilica’s parvis in preparation for the official ceremony welcoming the Pontiff.
“Who is this guy?” somebody asked when the Pope’s name was read out in Latin. “He is definitely not Italian,” an Italian journalist blurted out.
But this initial reaction soon faded away.
“It doesn’t matter who he is but the choice of Francis as his name indicates he will give preference to the poor and this must be a good thing,” an American, who had travelled to Rome to follow the conclave, said.
In the crowd Vincent Meli, 79, a member of the MUSEUM, said it made no difference to him who the Pope was. “We will always stand by the Pope,” he said, pointing out that these were St Gorg Preca’s words.
Mr Meli waved the Maltese flag in a sea of colours, insisting the conclave was not an event to miss.
A fellow MUSEUM member, Carmel Caruana, 51, said the choice of Pope was the Holy Spirit’s. Joseph Fenech, 65, also a MUSEUM member, instead outlined the problems the Pope will face. “Relativism is a matter of urgency for the new Pope, something Benedict had already talked about. But he also has to reach out to the young.”
As the day came to a close, soaked and tired the pilgrims made their way back to the hotels.
They had just witnessed the first steps of Cardinal Bergoglio’s stewardship of the Church but all they could remember was Pope Francis.
The quiet, unassuming cardinal from Argentina had already touched their hearts.