Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, has been elected the 266th Roman Catholic Church’s new Pope.
The Argentine cardinal is the first Latin American to be Pope.
He will call himself Francis I.
An hour earlier, white smoke billowing from the Sistine Chapel chimney announced to the world that cardinals gathered inside had made their choice.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio replaces Benedict XVI, who resigned last month saying he was not strong enough to lead the Church.
The 115 cardinals have been in isolation since Tuesday afternoon, and held four inconclusive votes.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, has been elected the 266th Roman Catholic Church’s new Pope
At least 77 of them, or two-thirds, would have had to vote for a single candidate for him to be elected Pope.
Before the conclave began, there was no clear frontrunner to replace Benedict.
Crowds with umbrellas massed in the square flying flags from around the world.
The Catholic News Agency said people were running through the streets of Rome, hoping to reach St Peter’s Square in time for the appearance of the new Pope.
Black smoke has poured from Sistine Chapel chimney, signaling that the second and third votes in the Papal election have been inconclusive.
Cardinals have been meeting for a second day to choose a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned last month.
The 115 electors are shut off in Vatican’s Sistine Chapel and a nearby residence until two-thirds agree on a leader for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
Further votes will be held this afternoon.
Starting with today, the cardinals will vote four times daily until a single candidate garners a two-thirds majority, at which point the smoke coming from the Sistine Chapel chimney will be white.
Before the conclave began there was no clear frontrunner to replace Pope Benedict.
Black smoke has poured from Sistine Chapel chimney, signaling that the second and third votes in the Papal election have been inconclusive
Cardinals have begun voting to elect a new Pope at the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.
The 115 cardinal-electors were locked in the chapel after swearing an oath of secrecy.
They will vote four times daily until two-thirds can agree on a candidate.
The election was prompted by the surprise abdication of Benedict XVI. There is no clear frontrunner to take over from him as head of the Roman Catholic Church.
The 85-year-old Benedict stepped down last month, saying he was no longer strong enough to lead the Church, which is beset by problems ranging from a worldwide scandal over child sex abuse to allegations of corruption at the Vatican Bank.
His resignation and the recent damage to the Church’s reputation make the choice of the cardinal-electors especially hard to predict.
They will weigh pressure for a powerful manager to reform the Vatican against calls for a new pope able to inspire the faithful, our correspondent adds.
At 16:30 local time on Tuesday, 115 cardinal-electors – all under 80, as those over 80 are excluded – entered the Sistine Chapel for the secret conclave to select Benedict’s successor, chanting the traditional Litany of the Saints.
Each man in turn stepped up and placed his hands on the Gospel to swear an oath in Latin.
Afterwards Msgr Guido Marini, papal master of ceremonies, called out the words “Extra omnes” – “Everybody out” – and the chapel doors were locked to outsiders.
From now on the cardinals will eat, vote and sleep in closed-off areas until a new pope is chosen.
Jamming devices in the Sistine Chapel should block all electronic communication and anyone tweeting would in any case risk being excommunicated.
Cardinals were now expected listen to a meditation by elderly Maltese Cardinal Prosper Grech before holding a first vote, after which their ballot papers will be burned.
The smoke that will drift out of the chapel’s chimney early in the evening is likely to be black – meaning no Pope has been elected.
Cardinals have begun voting to elect a new Pope at the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel
From Wednesday, two votes will be held each morning and afternoon – with ballots burned after each session – until one candidate attains a two-thirds majority (77 votes).
Then the smoke will be white, meaning the 266th bishop of Rome will have been chosen.
Earlier on Tuesday the cardinals attended a “Mass for the Election of the Supreme Pontiff” in St Peter’s Basilica.
In his homily, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, praised the “brilliant pontificate” of Pope Benedict and implored God to grant another “Good Shepherd” to lead the church.
He outlined the mission Catholics believe was given by Jesus Christ to St Peter – the first Pope – emphasizing love and sacrifice, evangelization and the unity of the church.
The speech was more measured in tone than the address given in 2005 by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict, which featured a fiery attack on the “dictatorship of relativism”.
On Tuesday morning several cardinals took to Twitter to say goodbye to their followers before being cut off from the outside world.
“Last tweet before the conclave: May Our Father hear and answer with love and mercy all prayers and sacrifices offered for a fruitful outcome,” South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier tweeted.
Benedict – now known as Pope emeritus – resigned on 28 February after eight years in office, citing ill health. He was the first Pope in six centuries to do so.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2005, he was the marked favorite ahead of the conclave and was elected pope after just four rounds of voting.
The vote for his successor is expected to take much longer.
After 10 general congregations open to all cardinals, regardless of age – at which 160 cardinals spoke of the issues facing the Church and the qualities needed by its next leader – no clear frontrunner has emerged.
“Last time around there was a man of stature, three or four times that of any other cardinal,” French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin told reporters.
“That is not the case this time around. Therefore, the choice has to be made among one, two, three, four… a dozen candidates.
“We still don’t really know anything. We will have to wait for the results of the first ballot.”
New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan told his priests there was hope that a new Pope could be chosen by Thursday.
Candidates named as contenders include Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, Brazil’s Odilo Scherer, and Cardinal Dolan himself – though he told one interviewer anyone who thought he was in with a chance might be “smoking marijuana”.
Conclave in numbers
- 115 cardinal-electors
- Two-thirds – or 77 – need to agree on papal candidate
- Four votes per day, two in the morning and two in the evening
- Chosen candidate will be 266th Pope
- He will lead world’s 1.2 billion Catholics
The process of electing a successor to Benedict XVI is under way and here are 10 of the candidates in the running to lead the Catholic Church.
Joao Braz de Aviz
- Archbishop of Brasilia
- Born 1947 in Santa Caterina, Brazil
- As young priest, caught in a robbery’s cross-fire
- Studied at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian and Lateran Universities
- Made cardinal in 2012
- Focuses on welfare of the poor
- Archbishop of New York
- Born 1950 in St Louis, Missouri, US
- PhD in Church history and was rector of Rome’s North American College
- One of Time’s 100 most influential people for 2012
- Archbishop of Quebec, head of Congregation for Bishops
- Born 1944 in La Motte, Quebec
- Decided to become a priest as a teenager
- Taught in seminaries in Colombia and Canada
- President of the Pontifical Council for Culture
- Born 1942 in Lecco, Italy
- Chose priesthood over teaching Latin and Greek classics
- Helped popularize scripture studies through Italian media
- Head of Vatican dept for Eastern Churches
- Born 1943 in Argentina to Italian parents
- Became a papal diplomat after ordination
- Served as Vatican’s chief-of-staff 2000-07
- Speaks English, French, German, Italian and Spanish
The process of electing a successor to Benedict XVI is under way
- Archbishop of Sao Paulo
- Born 1949 in Cerro Lago, Brazil, of German-Brazilian heritage
- Doctorate in theology
- Head of Church’s largest dioceses in world’s largest Catholic country
- Archbishop of Vienna
- Born 1945, son of a Bohemian count
- Seen as Benedict’s intellectual protégé
- Respected by Jews, Muslims and Orthodox Christians
- Embroiled in open rebellion by hundreds of own priests in Austria
- Has broken ranks to speak in favor of reform
- Archbishop of Milan
- Born 1941 in Milan, Italy
- Son of a truck driver
- Has doctorates in Christian philosophy and theology
- Italian newspaper calls him “crown prince of Catholicism”
- Archbishop of Manila
- Born 1957 in the Philippines
- Reputation as a man of the people
- Media-savvy, frequent broadcaster
- Served on International Theologian Commission
- Made cardinal in November 2012
- Archbishop of Cape Coast, general secretary of Synod for Africa
- Born 1948 in western Ghana
- Attended New York seminary
- First-ever Ghanaian cardinal in 2003
- Seen as a moderate
Roman Catholic cardinals from around the world are due to meet in Rome to begin the process of electing the next Pope.
The College of Cardinals will hold daily talks leading up to a conclave in which a new Pope will be chosen.
The election process comes after Pope Benedict XVI stepped down after nearly eight years in office leading the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
Pope Benedict XVI was the first pontiff to resign in 600 years.
The first pre-conclave meeting on Monday morning is to be headed by the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.
Cardinals – known as the “princes” of the Church – will discuss future challenges to the Church and discreetly weigh up possible papal candidates.
The conclave – to be held in the Sistine Chapel – is expected to take place next week.
Correspondents say the 115 cardinal electors, those under the age of 80 who will take part in the conclave, will want the new Pope to be officially installed in time to preside over Holy Week.
Roman Catholic cardinals from around the world are due to meet in Rome to begin the process of electing the next Pope
Ceremonies start with Palm Sunday on March 24 and culminate in Easter the following Sunday.
Strict precautions against leaks of unauthorized information will be in operation at the Vatican until the next Pope has been chosen.
Technicians will debug the cardinals’ lodgings and mobile phones will be banned altogether during the conclave.
Britain’s formerly most senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has said he will not take part in the conclave after standing down amid allegations of improper behavior.
On Sunday, Cardinal Keith O’Brien admitted his sexual conduct had at times “fallen beneath the standards expected of me”.
He apologized and asked forgiveness from those whom he had “offended”.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien resigned as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh last Monday after three priests and a former priest made allegations against him dating back to the 1980s.
Benedict, 85, officially ceased to be the Pope at 20:00 local time on Friday.
He left the Vatican in a motorcade before being flown by helicopter to the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome.
The German pontiff, who was born Joseph Ratzinger, will continue to be known as Benedict XVI, with the new title of “pope emeritus”.
He is expected to retire to a monastery on a hill inside Vatican City. Officials say he will not be able to intervene publicly in the next papacy although he may offer advice.
Vatican has announced that Pope Benedict XVI has amended Roman Catholic Church law so that the conclave selecting his successor can be brought forward.
The change to the constitution means cardinals will no longer have to wait 15 days after the papacy becomes vacant before beginning the conclave.
As a result, the conclave can now start before March 15.
Pope Benedict’s resignation, the first by a pope in nearly 600 years, takes effect on Thursday, February 28.
His decision surprised many within the Catholic Church.
“I leave the College of Cardinals the possibility to bring forward the start of the conclave once all cardinals are present, or push the beginning of the election back by a few days should there be serious reasons,” the Pope said in a statement read by his spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi.
Vatican officials explained that the change was partly due to the fact that the church constitution was written principally for a conclave following the death of a pope, rather than a resignation.
The decision on the date of the beginning of the conclave will be taken by the cardinals but will not happen earlier than March 1st, officials said.
A conclave beginning in mid-March would have left little time to have a new pope installed for one of the most important periods in the Catholic calendar, as Easter Holy Week begins on March 24.
Pope Benedict XVI has amended Roman Catholic Church law so that the conclave selecting his successor can be brought forward
The news about the timing of the conclave comes as the Pope accepted the resignation of the Roman Catholic Church’s highest cleric in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien.
It follows allegations – which he contests – of inappropriate behavior towards priests dating from the 1980s.
Vatican officials said that his Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s resignation was linked to the fact that he was approaching his 75th birthday and the Pope was keen to accept resignations and get business going ahead of his own resignation taking effect.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien has confirmed he will not take part in the conclave to elect Benedict’s successor.
Vatican officials said that no decision had been yet taken on how the Pope should be referred to during the period between popes.