The white smoke and ringing bells announced to the world that the cardinal electors had chosen a new pope, and about an hour later, Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio took St. Peter's balcony as Pope Francis I. He has the distinction of being the first pope from the Americas, as he is an Argentinian of Italian descent. He formerly served as the head of the Jesuit order, as well as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and is currently 75 years old. Pope John Paul II named him a cardinal. He is said to be known for his humility and devotion to simplicity, which includes taking the bus. He came in second to Benedict XIV eight years ago, but was not among the frontrunners named ahead of the voting this time.
Francis now must lead the Church through a host of challenges, from managerial obstacles to the crucial task of evangalization. Prior to the voting, cardinals commented that they were seeking a pope who would understand the Church's needs, especially at so critical a time, and when those needs are so diverse.
Ahead of the election of a new pope, cardinals said they were looking for “a pope that understands the problems of the Church at present” and who is strong enough to tackle them, said Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the archbishop emeritus of Prague who participated in the general congregations but was not eligible to vote in a conclave.
He said those problems included reforming the Roman Curia, handling the pedophilia crisis and cleaning up the Vatican bank, which has been working to meet international transparency standards.
“He needs to be capable of solving these issues,” Cardinal Vlk said as he walked near the Vatican this week, adding that the next pope needs “to be open to the world, to the troubles of the world, to society, because evangelization is a primary task, to bring the Gospel to people.”
For Catholics worldwide, including me, this is a beautiful day, and I know I'm not alone in praying for Francis as he takes up this incredible new mission. Indeed, when giving his first Urbi et Orbi ("To the City and the World") blessing, he requested that we pray for God's blessing on him, even as he did the same for us. Below, his first address (h/t NRO), in which he noted that the cardinals had "gone to the end of the world" to find a pope, but that there he was.