VATICAN CITY -- Argentine Jorge Bergoglio has been elected pope, the first ever from the Latin America. He has chosen the name Pope Francis.
After just two days of voting, white smoke emanated from the chimney of Sistine Chapel Wednesday, signaling 115 cardinals had selected the new pope.
Shortly after the announcement, Pope Francis appeared on the balcony over St. Peter's Square to greet a cheering crowd. The tens of thousands of gathered to celebrate as the white smoke went up and the bells of St. Peter's Basilica chimed.
Who is Jorge Bergoglio? Ordained minister and professor at Regent University Dr. Corne Bekker, has more following this report on CBN Newswatch, March 13.
The Catholic church's new leader waved to the crowd and asked for prayers for himself and for retired Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned last month.
It took five rounds of voting to elect Bergoglio as the 266th pope. Despite their being no clear frontrunner, the 76-year old was chosen in one of the fastest conclaves in years.
Pope Francis will now serve as the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
Earlier in the day, excitement filled the air as at least 50,000 people filled St. Peter's Square, eagerly awaiting the appearance of the Catholic Church's new leader.
"I can't explain how happy I am right down," Ben Canete, a 32-year-old Filipino, exclaimed.
Many Catholics, however, were more concerned about overall church leadership than who became pope.
"We expect a good leader in this age where there's a crisis of faith," one woman said. "I think the election of a new pope is a reflection of the direction the Church is going to go in and what the cardinals are thinking."
"I think they've probably lost vision of the future," one Australian man remarked. "Perhaps this one just needs to give us the right direction."
Meanwhile, Father Thomas Reese, author of the book Inside the Vatican, says the Church needs to confront one of its most serious problems: sex abuse.
"It's been a terrible thing in the Catholic Church, especially for these children that were harmed," he said. "And the American bishops were very strong that any pope they want to see elected is going to have to support zero tolerance for abuse in the Church.
"Any priest that's involved in sexual abuse has to be dismissed, got to be dismissed from the priesthood," he added.
How the Church and the new pope confront this and other challenges remains to be seen, but the world will be watching.