By Jason Horowitz and Anthony Faiola,
The Washington PostUpdated:
VATICAN CITY — Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected pope Friday, becoming the first pontiff from Latin America and taking the name Pope Francis.
Appearing on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica a short time later, the new pope led a prayer for his predecessor, Benedict XVI
“As you know, the duty of the conclave was to appoint a bishop of Rome, and it seems to me that my brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am,” he told the crowd.
Earlier, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the church’s most senior cardinal in the order of deacons, or the proto-deacon, announced “habemus papam” and spoke the name of the new pope, chosen on the second day of deliberations among the assembled cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church. But his words were barely audible to the throng gathered in St. Peter’s Square, and there was initial confusion over the identity of the new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
White smoke rose over the Sistine Chapel earlier Wednesday evening, heralding the election of the new pope after the 115 voting cardinals reached a decision on the 266th pontiff.
Crowds erupted in joy in St. Peter’s Square and waited anxiously for the presentation of the then-undisclosed new pope.
The new pope was revealed to the world with a cry of “habemus papam” on the balcony after entering the so-called room of tears, donning white papal vestments and praying with the cardinals who elected him.
A throng of people ran up the Via della Conciliazione, the broad avenue leading to St. Peter’s Square, holding umbrellas above their heads. A line of Polish nuns in white clasped each other’s hands. Clusters of students jumped up and down, and roars of joy passed over the sea of people like waves.
“Huge emotions,” said Claudio Santini, a lawyer from Rome who stood in a bowler hat in the square. “It’s not important where the pope is from, just that he can travel into people’s hearts.”
A marching band and lines of Swiss Guards flying the white and yellow Vatican colors proceeded up the basilica steps in front of the cheering crowds.
Standing at attention in front of the basilica, the band played the Italian national anthem as many in the crowd sang along — a sign of the close relationship between the Vatican and Italy.
The papal seal on the Vatican Web site, which has been cloaked under an umbrella during the interregnum following Benedict’s retirement, or sede vacante, now again displays the papal tiara under the title “Habemus Papam.”
The white smoke, accompanied by the pealing of bells to eliminate any confusion, billowed from a flue on the roof of the Sistine Chapel, prompting the huge gathered in the square to erupt in applause and cheers.
The election came after two rounds of balloting in a morning session. The 115 voting cardinals reconvened about 4:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. Eastern) to vote up to two more times before either electing a new pope or adjourning for the day.