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Pope Francis, an Argentinian, elected in Rome

15 March 2013

by Simon Caldwell


First appearance: Pope Francis waves to the crowd for the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica, on Wednesday evening 

First appearance: Pope Francis waves to the crowd for the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica, on Wednesday evening 

THE Argentinian Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been elected as Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, and has chosen the name Francis.

He is the first Pope from the New World, the first non-European for more than a millennium, and the first Jesuit in history to become Bishop of Rome.

Pope Francis was elected on the fifth ballot, on the second day of voting, by at least a two-thirds majority of the 115 cardinal-electors gathered inside the Sistine Chapel for the conclave.

The See of Rome had been left vacant after Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI relinquished his ministry on February 28 on the grounds that, at the age of 85 years, he was simply not strong enough to carry on.

The 76-year-old Pope Francis, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, had been a close contender for the papacy in 2005, when Benedict was elected in the fourth round of voting; but his election on Wednesday night was not expected. The crowd of more than 100,000 people in St Peter's Square fell silent when his name was announced.

The Cardinal proto-deacon Jean-Louis Tauran made the solemn announcement at 8.12pm local time from the external loggia of the Hall of Blessings of the Vatican Basilica, after the appearance of the white fumata from a chimney on the top of the Sistine Chapel an hour earlier.

He said: "Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum; habemus Papam; Eminentissium ac Reverendissium Dominum, Dominum Georgium Marium Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Bergoglio Qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum." (I announce to you with great joy; we have a Pope; the most eminent and most reverend Lord, Lord Mario Cardinal of Holy Roman Church Bergoglio, who has taken the name Francis.)

After the initial shock, the crowd began to chant together: "Francesco, Francesco!"

Pope Francis then greeted the enormous crowd that had been gathering all afternoon in the cold and the rain.

He said: "Dear brothers and sisters, good evening. You know that the duty of the Conclave was to give Rome a bishop. It seems that my brother cardinals picked him from almost the ends of the earth. But here we are!

"I thank you for the warm welcome. The diocesan community of Rome has its bishop. Thank you! First and foremost I would like to say a prayer for our Bishop Emeritus Benedict XVI. Let us pray together for him, that the Lord bless him and the Virgin keep him."

After leading the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Gloria, Pope Francis again addressed the crowd, saying: "And now let us begin this journey, bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome, which is the one that leads all the churches in charity, a journey of fraternity, of trust between us.

"Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the world so that this might be a great brotherhood. I hope that this journey of the Church that we begin today, and in which my Cardinal Vicar here present will assist me, will be fruitful for the evangelisation of this beautiful city.

"Now I would like to impart the blessing, but first, first I ask a favour of you. Before the bishop blesses the people, I ask that you pray to the Lord that he bless me: the prayer of the people asking a blessing for their bishop. Let us pray in silence, this, your prayer for me. Now I will impart the blessing to you and all the world, to all men and women of good will."

After the apostolic blessing, Pope Francis added: "Brothers and sisters, I take my leave. Thank you for your warm welcome. Tomorrow I'm going to pray to the Virgin, that she will safeguard all of Rome. Good night and rest well."

Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, another Jesuit, said afterward that he was very happy at the result. "We know the hopes that it would have been someone from the continent that has the majority of Catholics," he said.

"The choice of the name Francis is very meaningful," he continued. "It is a name that has never been chosen before and evokes simplicity and an Evangelical witness. His first, simple appearance in public testifies to both.

"It is a sign of great spirituality to ask the people's blessing for him before giving his own. It is a spirituality that recalls that of his predecessor. His pastoral sense of relationship with the diocese of Rome should also be noted. It is the Pope's diocese and [he chose] to pray the Church's simplest prayers with the People of God at a moment like this."

He added: "Cardinal Bergoglio is a Jesuit. Jesuits are characterised by their service to the Church, collecting all the charisms that the Lord gives us wherever they are needed, but trying to avoid positions of power.

"For me this election takes on the meaning of a call to server, a strong call and not a quest for power or authority. I am absolutely convinced that we have a Pope who wants to serve. His election was the election of a rejection of power."

He said that Pope Francis had already spoken with his predecessor on the telephone. The pair are expected to meet in private at Castel Gandolfo, the papal residence near Rome.

Pope Francis begins his ministry immediately, with a celebration of mass with the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. On Friday, 15 March, in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, he will meet with the full college of cardinals, electors and non-electors. On Saturday, in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope will have an audience with journalists and those who work in the media.

On Sunday he will recite the first Angelus of his papacy as is customary, in St Peter's Square. The mass to inaugurate the new papacy will be held on Tuesday, 19 March, the Feast of St Joseph. His visit to a Marian church on Thursday morning will be private.

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