Julian: At first, there were a few moments of confusion: was the smoke billowing from the top of the Sistine Chapel black, grey or white? Then as the bells of the Vatican rang and the smoke from the burning ballots turned pure white, the message was unmistakable.
Onlooker: As soon as the doors opened, my whole body just… Like, I got chills all over.
Julian: Tens of thousands of people filled St. Peter’s Square to hear the announcement.
The senior cardinal deacon of the church stepped out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to say we have a pope…
Senior Cardinal Deacon of the Catholic Church: Habemus papam.
Julian: …And then emerged the man himself.
The 115 voting cardinals chose Jorge Mario Bergoglio to be the church’s 266th leader.
Considered by Catholics to be the Vicar of Christ and the closest man to God, he is the first pope to select the name Francis. St. Francis is known for his work with the poor.
The 76-year-old is the first pope from the Americas. He was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, home to what is considered the most conservative church in Latin America. Forty percent of the world’s Catholics live in Latin America.
The decision on the new Catholic leader came relatively quickly, which may be an effort to show unity within the Catholic Church. The cardinals spent two days in their closed-door conclave and held four votes before reaching the two-thirds required to select their new pope.
These religion class students at Immaculate Conception School in Tuckahoe, New York had been following the conclave closely. Some said they have been hoping a new pope means a new direction for the Catholic Church.
Alaina Alfasi: I think we’re so traditional, let’s just try something new.
Adriana Coccuci: It would be, like, nice if women could become priests.
Julian: And the teens say they believe the new pope will be more than just the leader of the Catholic Church.
Huntley Spenser: The pope is sort of like a mediator. Like, he can tell you what you should do to sort of get closer to God because he wants you to have the best spiritual life so that you can go on to heaven.
Julian: It is the first time in history that there are two living popes, the retired Pope Benedict and the new Pope Francis.
- What kind of influence can a pope have in the world?
- What is, or should be, the role of a religious leader?