Argentina’s Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope Francis on Wednesday, becoming the first Latin American pontiff in an astonishing decision seen as a signal of greater openness for a troubled Roman Catholic Church.
Newly elected Pope Francis I (C), Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina appears on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica after being elected by the conclave of cardinals, in a photograph released by Osservatore Romano at the Vatican, March 13, 2013.
The 76-year-old railway worker’s son emerged smiling on the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica to cries of “Long live the pope!” and devoted his first prayer to his predecessor Benedict XVI as tens of thousands of pilgrims cheered.
The first non-European pope in nearly 1,300 years of Church history called for “fraternity” among the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics after the scandal-ridden papacy of his predecessor Benedict XVI.
“It seems that my brother cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth (to find a pope),” Francis said, referring to his native Argentina, which erupted in celebrations at his appointment.
“Now, we take up this journey… A journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us,” he said.
World leaders hailed the election of a pope seen as a moderate conservative who chose to name himself after the ascetic St Francis of Assisi.
US President Barack Obama said Bergoglio was “a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us.”
Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner wished her fellow countryman “a fruitful pastoral mission.”
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