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New pope known for modernizing Argentine church

Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina appears on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica after being elected by the conclave of cardinals, at the Vatican, March 13, 2013. White smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel chimney and the bells of St. Peter's Basilica rang out on Wednesday, signaling that Roman Catholic cardinals had elected a pope to succeed Benedict XVI.

Dylan Martinez/Reuters

The Catholic church has a new pope.

Argentine cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio will be known as Francis. He is the first pope to be known by that name, and the first from the Americas.

Bergoglio, 76, has spent nearly his entire career at home in Argentina, overseeing churches and shoe-leather priests. The archbishop of Buenos Aires reportedly got the second-most votes after Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 papal election, and he has long specialized in the kind of pastoral work that some say is an essential skill for the next pope.

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In a lifetime of teaching and leading priests in Latin America, which has the largest share of the world's Catholics, Bergoglio has shown a keen political sensibility as well as the kind of self-effacing humility that fellow cardinals value highly. Bergoglio is known for modernizing an Argentine church that had been among the most conservative in Latin America.

At 7:07 p.m., local time, white smoke billowed from the Sistine Chapel, signalling that a new pope had been elected after only two days of voting and five ballots. It came as a surprise, because there was no frontrunner going into the conclave and Vatican watchers had expected another day of voting after two inconclusive votes this morning.

St. Peter's Square erupted in shouts and cheers and clapping when the white smoke emerged. The bells of St. Peter's basilica began to ring immediately after the white smoke went up.

The crowd went wild with enthusiasm. Andrea Mascetti, 27, a Roman lawyer, could not believe his luck. He arrived in the square only minutes before the smoke was spotted. "I was just in time, " he said. "We just saw history."

At 8:12 p.m., local time, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran emerged onto the balcony facing St. Peter's Square to announce the identity of Francis.

Elected on the fifth ballot, he was chosen in one of the fastest conclaves in years, remarkable given there was no clear front-runner going into the vote and that the church had been in turmoil following the upheaval unleashed by Pope Benedict XVI's surprise resignation.

A winner must receive 77 votes, or two-thirds of the 115, to be named pope.

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The conclave played out against the backdrop of the first papal resignation in 600 years and revelations of mismanagement, petty bickering, infighting and corruption in the Holy See bureaucracy. Those revelations, exposed by the leaks of papal documents last year, had divided the College of Cardinals into camps seeking a radical reform of the Holy See's governance and those defending the status quo.

Leading up to the conclave, Cardinal Bergoglio was not among the names mentioned most often as "papabile" — a cardinal who has the stuff of a pope. Favourites included Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan, an intellect in the vein of Benedict but with a more outgoing personality, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican's important bishops' office who is also scholarly but reserved like Benedict.

Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer is liked by the Vatican bureaucracy but not by all of his countrymen. And Cardinal Peter Erdo of Hungary has the backing of European cardinals who have twice elected him as head of the European bishops' conference.

With files from the Associated Press

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About the Author
European Columnist

Eric Reguly is the European columnist for The Globe and Mail and is based in Rome. Since 2007, when he moved to Europe, he has primarily covered economic and financial stories, ranging from the euro zone crisis and the bank bailouts to the rise and fall of Russia's oligarchs and the merger of Fiat and Chrysler. More

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