Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been elected the Catholic Church’s Pope, taking the name Francis.
The 76-year-old from Buenos Aires is the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to be pontiff.
Messages of goodwill have poured in from around the world. The Pope’s inaugural Mass will be next Tuesday.
Pope Francis replaces Benedict XVI, who resigned last month at the age of 85, saying he was not strong enough to lead the Church.
Francis has telephoned Benedict and is planning to meet him, a Vatican spokesman said.
The new Pope takes the helm at a difficult time for the Catholic Church, facing an array of challenges which include the role of women, interfaith tensions and dwindling congregations in some parts of the world.
The election of a new Pope was signalled by white smoke from the Sistine Chapel chimney on Wednesday evening.
About an hour later, the name of the new Pope was read out.
He began his address to the crowds by offering a prayer for his predecessor.
In a light-hearted moment, he said his fellow cardinals had gone to the “ends of the Earth” to find a bishop of Rome.
He went on to ask the crowd to “pray to God so that he can bless me”, before calling on the world to set off on a path of love and fraternity.
The election was met with thunderous applause at the cathedral in Buenos Aires, Pope Francis’ home city.
Throughout Latin America – home to 40% of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics – people reacted with delight and surprise.
Correspondents say Cardinal Bergoglio was a surprise choice and not among a small group of frontrunners before the election.
Many observers were also expecting a younger pope to be elected.
He is regarded as a doctrinal conservative but seen as a potential force for reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, which may have won the support of reforming cardinals.
However, he is known more than anything for his humility. He has spent almost his entire career in Argentina and often travels to work by bus.
Pope Francis in March 2013
|Papacy began||13 March 2013|
|Ordination||13 December 1969by Ramón
|Consecration||27 June 1992by Antonio
|Created Cardinal||21 February 2001|
|Born||17 December 1936
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Argentine with Vatican
Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires (1992–1997)Titular Bishop of Auca (1992–1997)
Archbishop of Buenos Aires(1998–2013)Cardinal-Priest of St.
Roberto Bellarmino (2001–2013)
|Motto||Miserando atque eligendo|