After two days of voting, cardinals in Vatican City have elected 76-year-old Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who will be called Francis, the 266th leader of the Roman Catholic Church. He is the first pope from South America and the first non-European pontiff in more than 1,000 years.
“I would like to thank you for your embrace,” said Francis from the white balcony on St. Peter’s Basilica to cheering thousands. He also thanked his fellow cardinals, saying they “have chosen one from far away.”
A Roman man in the crowd said, “It was like waiting for the birth of a baby, only better.”
According to The New York Times, Francis had been the Archbishop of Buenos Aires and the former head of the Jesuit order. The NYT also said the new pope will inherit numerous challenges, including growing competition from evangelical churches in the Southern Hemisphere to priest shortages to the sex abuse crisis is undermining the Church’s authority in the West.
“The pope’s election is something substantially different from a political election,” Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna said, adding that the role was not “the chief executive of a multinational company, but the spiritual head of a community of believers.”
Fox News wrote that Francis, in his experience of teaching and leading priests in Latin America, “has shown a keen political sensibility as well as the kind of self-effacing humility that fellow cardinals value highly.” He also has been known for “modernizing an Argentine church that had been among the most conservative in Latin America.”
A spokesperson from the Vatican Rev. Federico Lombardi suggested that Francis could be installed as soon as next Tuesday, on the feast of St. Joseph, patron saint of the universal church. The Fox News article also commented that the installation Mass is attended by heads of state from around the world, requiring at least a few days’ notice.