Tens of thousands of people who braved cold rain to watch the smokestack atop the Sistine Chapel jumped in joy when white smoke poured out, many shouting “Habemus Papam!” or “We have a pope!” — as the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica and churches across Rome pealed.
Chants of “Long live the pope!” rose from the throngs of faithful, many with tears in their eyes. Crowds went wild as the Vatican appeared on the square, blaring music, followed by Swiss Guards in silver helmets and full regalia. At least 50,000 people jammed into the square.
“I can’t explain how happy I am right down,” said Ben Canete, a 32-year-old Filipino, jumping up and down in excitement.
Elected on the fifth ballot, the new pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina, 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.
In Latin America, people reacted with joy to news of the first pope from the hemisphere, bursting into tears and cheers.
“It’s incredible!” said Martha Ruiz, 60, who was weeping tears of emotion after learning that the cardinal she knew as Jorge Mario Bergoglio will now be Pope Francis I.
She said she had been in many meetings with the cardinal and said, “He is a man who transmits great serenity.”
At the St. Francis of Assisi church in the colonial Old San Juan district in Puerto Rico, church secretary Antonia Veloz exchanged jubilant high-fives with the priest.
“This is something exciting,” the 50-year-old Veloz said of the new Argentine pope. “I’m speechless.”