VATICAN CITY (CBSNewYork/AP) – Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope Wednesday and chose the papal name Francis, becoming first pontiff from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium.
A stunned-looking Bergoglio shyly waved to the crowd of tens of thousands that had gathered in St. Peter’s Square. As CBS 2’s Maurice DuBois reported, the new pope was greeted with rapturous applause from the cold, wet and ecstatic crowd.
He marveled that the cardinals had to look to “the end of the earth” to find a bishop of Rome.
He asked for prayers for himself and for retired Pope Benedict XVI, whose stunning resignation paved the way for the tumultuous conclave that brought the first Jesuit to the papacy. The cardinal electors overcame deep divisions to select the 266th pontiff in a remarkably fast conclave.
Bergoglio’s chosen name, Francis, is taken from the patron saint of Italy, Saint Francis of Assissi.
After announcing “Habemus Papum” or “We have a pope!” – a cardinal standing on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday revealed the identity of the new pontiff, using his Latin name.
Tens of thousands of people who braved cold rain to watch the smokestack atop the Sistine Chapel jumped in joy when white smoke poured out, signaling a new pope had been chosen, as the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica and churches across Rome pealed.
Chants of “Long live the pope!” arose from the throngs of faithful, many with tears in their eyes. Crowds went wild as the Vatican and Italian military bands marched through the square and up the steps of the basilica, followed by Swiss Guards in silver helmets and full regalia.
They played the introduction to the Vatican and Italian anthems and the crowd, which numbered at least 50,000, joined in, waving flags from countries around the world.
The 114 cardinals who had chosen Francis took in the moment from the large windows on either side of the Holy Father.
All of them were also acutely aware of the challenge they faced – a backdrop of Vatican scandals, and a battle to energize the faith in a secular world.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said the experience moved him to tears.
“To be part of the selection of the new pope– to be there, when he said ‘accepto?’ This was amazing,” Dolan said. “I never thought that would happen.”
Dolan was in vintage form, having just played a role in making history.
Elected on the fifth ballot, the pope was chosen in one of the fastest conclaves in years, remarkable given there was no clear front-runner going into the vote and that the Church had been in turmoil following the upheaval unleashed by Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.
The drama began unfolding at 7:06 p.m. Roman time, with grayish smoke first billowing from the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel, followed quickly by white smoke.
Shortly after that, the pope’s Twitter account, whose profile was changed to read “Sede Vacante” when Benedict stepped down, was switched back to “@Pontifex.”
The first tweet read: HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCUM
EXTRA: What’s In A Smoke Signal?
Before the white smoke emerged, thick black smoke billowed from the chimney following earlier votes Wednesday, prompting sighs of disappointment from the thousands that had gathered at St. Peter’s.
The drama played out against the backdrop of the turmoil unleashed by Benedict’s retirement and the exposure of deep divisions among cardinals that ensued.
The cardinals spent Tuesday night sequestered in the Vatican’s Santa Marta hotel, an impersonal modern hotel on the edge of the Vatican gardens.
Pope Francis was to remain with the cardinals at the Vatican’s Santa Marta hotel and spend his first night as pontiff in a room that features a bed with a dark wood headboard and a carved image of Christ’s face, as well as a sitting area and a study.
Pope Francis is expected to stay there for a few weeks until the papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace can be renovated. The apartment was sealed Feb. 28, just after Benedict resigned, and cannot be reopened until the new pope formally takes possession.
Francis was already breaking ground on day one – the first pope from the Southern or Western Hemisphere, the first Jesuit, and the first pope named Francis.
Crowd Brims With Enthusiasm
CBS 2’s Tony Aiello walked through the crowd at the Vatican on Wednesday evening. It included dozens of American exchange students, and one from New Jersey said she had crossed her fingers and hoped for a pope from the United States.
“I would love if it were an American pope,” said Tina Dukander of Edison, N.J. “But you never know what the cardinals were thinking.”
There were excited cheers in the crowd when the white smoke appeared.
“I am so excited!” Dukander said. “I can’t wait to find out who it is!”
It took an hour to find out it was Cardinal Bergoglio. His name was not a widely familiar one to the faithful in the plaza, but their joy was genuine anyway.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing for the world to have a pope from South America,” said U.S. tourist Molly Fitzgerald. “It’s great. I’m so excited to learn about who he is.”
The earnest tone and humble demeanor of the new pope made an immediate positive impression.
“A very calm, cool, collected demeanor; I truly believe this is a prayerful man who will lead and guide the Church,” said seminary student James Hinkle.
There was also a powerful moment when the new pope asked for the prayers of the people. Aiello said himself that being part of that silent multitude was absolutely amazing.
Meanwhile, the handful of Argentineans in the crowd were cheering a man they knew and loved.
“He likes to work with the people, the poor people. He’s very humble! He’s very humble! He’s a very nice guy! We are very happy!” said Jose Ayerza of Argentina.
Hours later, the square was empty, but those who were present were left with images and memories that will last a lifetime.
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