ROME (CNN) -- Pope Francis, the first non-European pontiff of the modern era, revealed himself to the world from a balcony at the Vatican on Wednesday.
Jorge Bergoglio, who served as archbishop of Buenos Aires, took the name Francis shortly after being elected by cardinals in what was apparently the fifth round of voting on the second day of the conclave.
"As you know, the duty of the conclave was to appoint a bishop of Rome," Francis told a cheering crowd of thousands packed into St. Peter's Square.
"It seems to me that my brother cardinals have chosen one who is from faraway. ... Here I am. I would like to thank you for your embrace."
Bergoglio, 76, is the first pope to take the name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, revered among Catholics for his work with the poor.
Francis did not follow tradition when greeting the 150,000 packed into St. Peter's Square. Rather than bless the crowd first, he asked them to pray for him.
"We have a pope who probably upset some people tonight by not following the formula," said Vatican spokesman the Rev. Tom Rosica, who interpreted the new pope's willingness to dispense with tradition as a sign that he will be willing to chart his own path in other ways.
As pope, Bergoglio takes the helm of a Catholic Church that has been rocked in recent years by sex abuse by priests, claims of corruption among the church hierarchy and a scandal surrounding the Vatican bank.
The new pontiff is considered a straight shooter who calls things as he sees them, and a follower of the church's most conservative wing.
As cardinal, he clashed with the government of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner over his opposition to gay marriage and free distribution of contraceptives.
Pope of firsts
Bergoglio becomes the first pope who is Jesuit, a large religious order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church, as well as the first pontiff from Latin America.
With its approximately 480 million adherents, Latin America is home to an overwhelming plurality of the world's Catholics. By choosing him, the cardinals sent a strong message about where the future of the church may lie.
According to a profile by CNN Vatican analyst John Allen and published by the National Catholic Reporter, Francis was born in Buenos Aires to an Italian immigrant father.
He is known for his simplicity. He chose to live in an apartment rather that the archbishop's palace, passed on a chauffeured limousine, took the bus to work and cooked his own meals, Allen wrote.
Francis has a reputation for being a voice for the poor.
Word of the election of Pope Francis quickly spread around the globe, with everyone from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to U.S. President Barack Obama offering congratulations.
"As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day," Obama said.
Ban said the new pope shares common goals with the United Nations, from the promotion of peace to social justice.
"We also share the conviction that we can only resolve the interconnected challenges of today's world through dialogue," he said.
Nowhere was the reaction to Bergoglio's selecton as pope more surprising than in Latin America, with a plurality of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
"I am truly still very surprised...not just that a Latino pope came out, but that he is an Argentinian from Buenos Aires," the Rev. Eduardo Mangiarotti told CNN en Espanol.
The new pope called his predecessor, Benedict XVI, after he was elected, Rosica said.
Francis participated in the conclave that elected Benedict in April 2005. He was widely reported to be a runner-up to Benedict in the election.
The cardinals will join Francis on Thursday evening for a Mass in the Sistine Chapel, and Francis will deliver the traditional Angelus blessing from the Vatican on Sunday, Rosica said.
Francis will be formally installed as pope at a Mass on Tuesday, according to the Vatican.
What's in a name?
Bergoglio's selection of the name of Pope Francis is "the most stunning" choice and "precedent shattering," Allen said. "The new pope is sending a signal that this will not be business as usual."
The name symbolizes "poverty, humility, simplicity and rebuilding the Catholic Church," Allen said.
St. Francis of Assisi was born in 1181 or 1182 the son of a rich Italian cloth merchant, according to the Vatican website.
After "a carefree adolescence and youth," Francis joined the military and was taken prisoner. He was freed after becoming ill, and when he returned to Assisi, Italy, a spiritual conversion began, and he abandoned his worldly lifestyle.
In a famous episode, Christ on the Cross came to life three times in the small Church of St. Damian and told him: "Go, Francis, and repair my Church in ruins," Pope Benedict XVI said, according to Vatican's website.
CNN's Richard Allen Greene and Hada Messia reported from Rome, and Chelsea J. Carter wrote and reported from Atlanta. CNN's Dana Ford, Catherine Shoichet and Mariano Castillo contributed to this report.
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[Updated at 3:17 p.m. ET]
Bergoglio is the first pope from South America, and the third straight non-Italian pope.
[Updated at 3:15 p.m. ET]
And the new pope is: Argentina's Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
[Updated at 3:12 p.m. ET]
The protodeacon is on the balcony, making the announcement.
[Updated at 3:08 p.m. ET]
It is taking longer for the new pope to appear after the white smoke this year than it did for Benedict XVI to appear after his election in 2005. But, an extra step has been added this time - the new pope has been allowed to pray alone in the Pauline Chapel before he appears on the balcony.
That could account for at least some of the difference.
[Updated at 3:03 p.m. ET]
It will be interesting to learn not only who the new pope is, but also what name he has chosen for himself. Popes often take a regnal name (like Benedict) that a previous pope used, and it generally is meant to point to a tone that the new pontiff wants to set, CNN senior Vatican analyst John Allen says.
For example, Pius XII, who served from 1939 to 1958, was very conservative, eminent Italian church historian Alberto Melloni told CNN. So, "if the new pope was to call himself Pius XIII, it would be a very ideological choice," he said.
[Updated at 2:48 p.m. ET]
Here's what we're going to hear from the cardinal who will introduce the new pope:
"Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: Habemus Papam! Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum (FIRST NAME OF NEW POPE) Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem (LAST NAME OF NEW POPE) qui sibi nomen imposuit (POPE'S NEW NAME)."
"I announce with great joy: We have a pope! The eminent and most reverend lord, Lord (FIRST NAME OF NEW POPE) ... Cardinal (LAST NAME OF NEW POPE) who was taken the name (LAST NAME OF NEW POPE), who has taken the name (POPE'S NEW NAME)."
[Updated at 2:38 p.m. ET]
It shouldn't be long before we find out who the new pope is. When Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, about 45 minutes passed between the appearance of the white smoke and the appearance of the cardinal who introduced the new pope.
Today, the smoke appeared just after 2 p.m. ET (7 p.m. in the Vatican).
[Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET]
The crowd at St. Peter's Square continues to swell. "People are literally running up the block (so they can see the pope) when he comes out on the balcony for the first time," CNN's Anderson Cooper reports from the Vatican.
[Updated at 2:25 p.m. ET]
From CNN's Jim Bittermann at the Vatican: The crowd waiting for the new pope represents all sorts of nationalities -- "everybody from around the world."
"You see a lot of religious folks are here, different orders of nuns and priests, packing in all afternoon," as well as tourists, he said. "There are more people just as I'm speaking. All of the sudden there's been a surge of people coming in."
[Updated at 2:23 p.m. ET]
Like the one in which Benedict XVI was chosen in 2005, this election didn't take long. The white smoke comes on just the conclave's second day.
We have a few steps to take before we learn who the new pope is. Here's what we've been told will happen next:
-- The new pope will leave the Sistine Chapel to put on his papal robes, then re-enter the chapel for prayer with the cardinals.
-- The cardinals will then line up to congratulate the new pope and promise their obedience to him.
-- The pope will then go back to Pauline Chapel to pray for a few moments.
-- Only then will the pope prepare to reveal himself to the public. At the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, proto-deacon Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (assuming Tauran himself wasn't elected) will appear and announce the new pope's old name, and the name he will be known as from now on.
-- The pope will then appear on the balcony.
[Posted at 2:09 p.m. ET]
White smoke above the Sistine Chapel have made it official: The Roman Catholic Church has a new pope.
Bells are ringing at the Vatican, and thousands of people gathered in the square are cheering.
We'll find out in the minutes to come who the new pope is. Stay with us as we find out.
Cardinals from around the world have been gathering in Michelangelo's masterpiece the Sistine Chapel this week for a conclave to elect a new pope. The historic process is filled with pomp and ceremony and so shrouded in secrecy that its very name means "under lock and key."
But it's a curious idiosyncrasy that, in an era when one of Benedict's XVI's final acts was to send a message via Twitter -- and his predecessor ordered that the Sistine Chapel be swept for recording devices -- the conclave's election of a new pope was announced on Wednesday evening by white smoke from burning ballot papers. Black fumes earlier signified an inconclusive vote.
And until the official announcement of "Habemus Papam -- we have a new pope" -- is made around an hour later, it is a modest little stove and chimney that stole the show.
The Vatican says the cast iron stove is "cylindrical in shape with a narrower upper portion" and approximately one meter high. "It has a door in its lower section enabling ignition, a valve for manual regulation of the draft and an upper door through which the documents to be burnt are introduced. The dates of election to the papacy and the names of the last six pontiffs are stamped on the upper cap of the stove."
CNN's senior Vatican analyst John Allen said the "oldish-looking" stove and its attached chimney were introduced to preserve the independence of the conclave process.
"The whole purpose of the secrecy is to protect the cardinals from outside influence," he said, the theory being that details of the ballot papers could expose the cardinals to repercussions or other pressures.
The Vatican's constitution requires a two-thirds majority to elect a new pope.
On the first day of the conclave, one voting session is held: on other days the cardinals vote twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. If a second ballot must be taken immediately, the first bundle of ballots and any private notes are burned with the second. The cardinals chosen to be scrutineers are responsible for burning the ballots, with help from the secretary of the College of Cardinals and masters of ceremonies, who are allowed to enter the chapel after voting has concluded.
Depending on how long the cardinals take to agree, pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square could be reading smoke signals for days on end. And those signals haven't always been particularly clear.
Frederic Baumgartner, professor of history at Virginia Tech University and author of "Behind Locked Doors: A History of the Papal Elections," said that before the 1800s, "beginning to unbar doors and window was taken as a symbol that the election was complete. There was also mention of noise from where the cardinals were locked in and the firing of cannons at Castel Sant' Angelo."
In the 19th century, Baumgartner said, there was mention of smoke being "taken as meaning that there had been no election - and that they were burning the ballots after scrutiny. The smoke was described often as yellow. What I get from the sources that I was reading from the 1800s is that when they didn't see smoke then they were hopeful."
But the first reference to the different meanings of white or black smoke occurred at the 1903 conclave. "The primary reason they went for the black and white smoke was because there was confusion in the crowds as to what was going on," Baumgartner explained.
But the confusion didn't stop there.
Priest and archivist Fr. Nicholas Schofield said that in the event of an inconclusive ballot, wet straw had traditionally been added to the fire to make the smoke black. But uncertainty around the results of a 1958 conclave had led to the introduction of chemicals to make the color of the smoke more obvious.
Nonetheless, CNN's senior Vatican analyst, John Allen, said smoke from the fire "normally comes out an indistinct grey at the start." At the 1978 conclave that resulted in the election of Pope John Paul II there were some false alarms and John Paul II later specified that the bells of St. Peters be rung to signify a successful election. "The problem with that is that bells go off at the Vatican all the time."
At Pope Benedict XVI's election in 2005, Allen recalled, bells had rung out at the same time as smoke came from the Sistine Chapel chimney, but it transpired that they were just marking the top of the hour.
The confusion occurred despite the introduction that year of an auxiliary smoke-emitting device aimed at improving the visibility of the smoke.
"In order to improve the draft, the vent is preheated by means of electric resistance and it's equipped with a ventilator for use if necessary," the Vatican said in a statement.
Ahead of this year's conclave, spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the chemical technique had been improved to ensure a clear color signal.
Once the senior cardinal deacon appears on the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square to formally announce the election of a new pope and his name, the little stove's time in the spotlight should be over and the focus will then move to the pope elect.
"He's supposed to act as if it's a difficult decision and then he has to be fitted with his vestments," Baumgartner said, estimating the appearance might come about an hour after the smoke signal. "If a man was really conflicted about the job, he may take a little longer."
Baumgartner said that he was not aware of any wrong announcements about a new pope being made in modern times - but there had been some in the past.
"There used to be a tradition that the Romans [residents of Rome] would go and ransack the dwelling of the cardinal that was elected -- on the grounds that he didn't need it anymore. There was at least one example of the Rome's residents ransacking the house of the wrong cardinal, during the 400-500 years the tradition was followed.
"Not only did he not become pope but he didn't have anything left in his house."