Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been elected the 266th pontiff of the Roman Ctaholic church succeeding Pope Benedict, who resigned last month.
The 115 voting members of the College of Cardinals elected the 76 year old pope Wednesday afternoon on the second day of their secret conclave in the Vatican. The new pope has chosen the name Francis.
The candidate had to receive two-thirds of the vote, or 77 ballots, to be chosen to lead the Church.
Thousands gathered in the Vatcan's Saint Peter's Square to witness the historical announcement.
White smoke emerged from a chimney atop the Sistine Chapel and bells pealed in Vatican City Wednesday evening, signaling that a new pope had been chosen to lead the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
The cardinals, all of them under the age of 80, took an initial vote Tuesday. As expected, the first vote did not produce a decision but may have produced a slate of frontrunners. A vote Wednesday morning also was inconclusive.
The 115 scarlet-robed "princes of the church" swore an oath of secrecy requiring, under pain of excommunication, that they would reveal nothing of their deliberations for the duration of the secret conclave.