for Religion News Services on March 14, 2013
VATICAN CITY - Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as Pope Francis on Wednesday (March 13), after only two days of voting in the conclave tasked with choosing a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.
Newly elected Pope Francis appears on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday (March 13) in Vatican City. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th pontiff and will lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
Bergoglio, 76, has served as the archbishop of Buenos Aires since 1998 and was made a cardinal in 2001. He is the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to rise to the papacy.
According to anonymous reports of the 2005 conclave, he was the leading contender against then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Benedict XVI.
In his first address to the huge crowd that had gathered in St Peter’s Square, Francis asked for the prayers of “all men and women of good will” to help him lead the Catholic Church.
Speaking in Italian, he jokingly remarked: “As you know the duty of the conclave is to give Rome a bishop. It seems that my brother cardinals went almost to the end of the world.”
In a remarkable gesture of humility, the new pope then asked the throngs to pray for him before he offered his first blessing as the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.
“The Holy Father has already shown us his deep humility in the invitation to pray with him, for him and for the church,” Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley — himself considered a contender in the conclave — said after Francis’ election.
The Vatican’s top spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Francis placed a telephone call after his election to Benedict, who left the Vatican on Feb. 28 for the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. Benedict plans to return to the Vatican in the coming weeks to live out his retirement in a retrofitted convent.
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