VATICAN CITY - For the first time since the eighth century, the Roman Catholic Church has chosen a Pope from outside Europe.
Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio emerged onto the balcony over St. Peter’s Square to the wild cheers ofthe tens of thousands crowded outside.
Bergoglio will take the name Francis I.
Widely seen as the runner up in the 2005 conclave that elected Benedict XVI, Bergoglio received the required two-thirds majority from the 115 cardinal electors in the Sistine Chapel on the fifth ballot.
Pope Francis is first non-European pope since Syrian-born Gregory III (731-741).
He is also the first pope in history from Latin America.
And he is believed to be the first Jesuit to ascend the papal throne.
Bergoglio was a cardinal and archbishop from Buenos Aires, where he was known to take the bus or subway to work and shunned the palace reserved for the archbishop in favour of a small, modest apartment.
"You know the task of the conclave was to give Rome a bishop,” Francis told the crowd on St. Peter’s Square in his first words as pope. “My brothers went to the end of the Earth to get him."
Three Canadian cardinals were among those “brothers” who participated in the election. One of them, Quebec’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet, was seen as a potential favourite.
Some oddsmakers had Bergoglio as a 33-1 underdog.
Bergoglio becomes the 266th successor to Saint Peter as the spiritual father to the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
Bergoglio was born in 1936 to Italian immigrants. His father was a railway worker.
He straddles several communities. He is a cardinal in the developing world, but he studied in Europe and worked at the Vatican among the Curia or Vatican administration.
While Bergoglio, like most of his fellow cardinals, is a strong opponent of same-sex marriage, abortion, and homosexuality, he is also seen as a compassionate advocate for the poor.
“We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most, yet reduced misery the least," Bergoglio said in a 2007 speech.. "The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers."
The Vatican had yet to announce the date that Pope Francis I will be installed. Vatican officials had hinted that the installation could take place in Vatican City on March 19.