The Catholic Church has elected a new pope: Argentinian Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 76-year-old Archbishop of Buenos Aires who has chosen the papal name Francis.
He has made history as the first pope of the Americas; the first Jesuit; and the first non-European pope in more than a millennium.
After announcing "Habemus Papum" -- "We have a pope!" -- a cardinal on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica revealed the identity of the new leader of the Catholic Church Wednesday evening. Appearing on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, Bergoglio said: “The purpose of the conclave was to appoint the bishop of Rome. But it seems my brothers the cardinals went all the way to the end of the world. I thank you for your welcome.”
"Brothers and sisters, thank you so much for your welcome. Please pray for me and we will see each other soon. Tomorrow I will go to pray to the Madonna that she may protect all of Rome. Good evening, good night and rest well," he said.
The new pope was also quick to send out a message on social media -- tweeting: "Inmensamente feliz de ser el nuevo Papa, Francisco I" -- or “Immensely happy to be your new pope, Francis I”.
Bergoglio is known for modernizing an Argentinian church considered among the most conservative in Latin America.
He was elected on the fifth ballot in a remarkably quick conclave -- given that there was no clear frontrunner going in. The winner had to receive 77 votes, or two-thirds of the support of the 115 voting cardinals.
Bergoglio was greeted by tens of thousands of faithful who have been waiting to witness the first new pontiff in eight years, and the 266th pontiff in the 2,000-year history of the church.
“We’re going to see in this guy a reformer. He’s going to take the church in a different direction,” CTV papal commentator Father Michael Bechard said.
During the last papal conclave, Bergoglio was considered to be the main challenger to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI.
Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires in 1936. His father, an immigrant from Italy, was a railway worker.
He grew up with four siblings and originally planned to become a chemist, but eventually decided to become a priest and entered the Society of Jesus in 1958.
Bergoglio spent almost his entire career in Argentina, teaching literature and philosophy in his early years and serving as the country’s Jesuit provincial in the 1970s.
He is known for his strict views on morality -- having staunchly opposed same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion. He has called adoption by gay parents a form of discrimination against children -- a stance that was publicly criticized by Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Still, Bergoglio has shown compassion for HIV and AIDS patients, visiting a hospice in 2001 to kiss and wash the feet of some of those affected by the disease.
“This is a man who goes into the shantytowns and cooks with the people," said Gerard O’Connell, CTV Vatican specialist. "I think the world is going to discover a very new style of being pope."
Pope Francis chose his name from St. Francis of Assisi, who communicated and cared for animals.