After only one day of deliberating and five rounds of voting, the 115 cardinals cloistered in the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday elected a new pope. White smoke and church bells in Vatican City heralded the selection of Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, 76, who will be known as Pope Francis.
Bergoglio, the runner-up in the 2005 papal conclave that crowned Pope Benedict XVI, will be the first Latin American pope.
Most speculative media reports before the announcement did not tout Bergoglio as a likely pick, focusing instead on presumptive front-runners Odilo Scherer of Brazil, 63, and Angelo Scola of Italy, 71.
Scherer, archbishop of Sao Paulo since 2007, was reportedly favored by the Vatican bureaucracy. Scola, archbishop of Milan since 2011, worked methodically to raise his public profile, Reuters reported, in part by launching in 2004 a Christian-Muslim dialogue network called Oasis.
Americans Sean O'Malley of Boston, 68, and Timothy Dolan of New York, 63, and Canadian Marc Ouellet, 68, were widely discussed as possible candidates. Several candidates from the third world were also discussed, including Ghanian Peter Turkson, 64, and Luis Tagle, 55, who is from the Philippines.
A two-thirds majority, or 77 votes, was needed for a new pope to be elected. The selection process was kicked off on February 11, when Pope Benedict XVI, 85, shocked the world by announcing that he would resign on February 28, an unprecedented move in the modern church.
Benedict, now referred to as "pope emeritus," was not directly involved in selecting his successor.
The BBC reported that Benedict was elected in 2005 after four ballots, defeating Bergoglio with 84 out of 115 votes. Although conclave deliberations are supposed to be secret, alleged vote counts were reported by the press.