Former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the new leader of the Catholic church, and the world will know him as Pope Francis.
White smoke swirled from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday at 7:05 CET (2:05 ET) after the fifth round of voting by the 115 cardinals in the conclave. Since a two-third majority is required to elect a new pope, the appointed pontiff received at least 77 votes.
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About an hour after the smoke appeared, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran took to the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to announce the name of the 266th pope. As per tradition, Cardinal Tauran shouted "Habermus Papam!" (which means "we have a new pope!"). He then revealed that the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires would be the new head of the Catholic church.
The new pope will lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
Bergoglio marks several firsts for the Catholic church. In addition to being the first Pope Francis in the history of Catholicism, he is also the first Jesuit pope and the first pope elect from outside of Europe in more than a millennium.
The 76-year-old pontiff-elect was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and became a cardinal of the Catholic church in 2001, proclaimed so by Pope John Paul II. Bergoglio is reported to have had the second-most votes after pope emeritus Benedict XVI in the 2005 papal conclave.
During his time as the Cardinal of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio was known for denying himself many of the pleasures that previous cardinals had enjoyed in the position. Bergoglio often rode the bus to work, cooked his own meals and regularly visited the slums that ring Argentina's capital. He considers social outreach, rather than doctrinal battles, to be the essential business of the church.
He has also had a tumultuous relationship with Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, who has imposed numerous socially liberal policies that often go against the wishes of the Catholic church. His outspoken criticism couldn't prevent Argentina from becoming the Latin American country to legalize gay marriage, or stop Fernandez from promoting free contraception and artificial insemination. His church had no say when the Argentine Supreme Court expanded access to legal abortions in rape cases, and when Bergoglio argued that gay adoptions discriminate against children.
Bergoglio has come under criticism in the past for the Catholic church's role in Argentina's murderous 1976-83 dictatorship. Many Argentines remain angry over the church's acknowledged failure to openly confront a regime that was kidnapping and killing thousands of people as it sought to eliminate "subversive elements" in society. It's one reason why more than two-thirds of Argentines describe themselves as Catholic, but fewer than 10 per cent regularly attend mass.
Under Bergoglio's leadership, Argentina's bishops issued a collective apology in October 2012 for the church's failures to protect its flock. But the statement blamed the era's violence in roughly equal measure on both the junta and its enemies.
This decision to elect Bergoglio came quite quickly in comparison to previous papal conclaves, in five rounds of voting over two days. In the past, conclaves have dragged on for weeks, months, even years. One 13th-century conclave lasting weeks was thrown into turmoil when one of the leading candidates died. More recently, though, conclaves haven't lasted longer than a week, with the longest conclave of the past century taking place in 1922, with the election of Pope Pius XI taking 14 rounds over 5 days.
With files from The Canadian Press