|The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church elected on Wednesday a new pope, the first non-European to be elected for almost 1,300 years.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, becomes Pope Francis, the first pontiff to take that name.
The new pope appeared on the balcony over the entrance to St Peter’s basilica more than an hour after white smoke poured from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel, signaling that the cardinals had made their choice.
The new pope will face renewed pressure to better handle sex abuse scandals involving pedophile priests, and avoid cover-ups by senior clergymen.
Shortly after the election, world leaders and Catholics hailed the move, urging him to work for religious reconciliation and peace.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said the United Nations and the Roman Catholic Church shared the “common goals” of promoting peace, social justice and human rights, and the eradication of poverty and hunger.
“We also share the conviction that we can only resolve the interconnected challenges of today’s world through dialogue,” Ban said.
US President Barack Obama and Argentine leader Cristina Kirchner led congratulations from across the Americas, where Roman Catholics rejoiced that one of their own will lead the church’s 1.2-billion-strong flock.
US Vice President Joe Biden, a Catholic who will lead the US delegation to the new pope’s inauguration mass on Tuesday, said he would extend his prayers as the pontiff “takes on this holy responsibility”.
“I am happy to have the chance to personally relay my well wishes, and those of the American people, when I travel to Rome,” Biden said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the “hopes” of “millions of believers in Germany and the world,” now rest “with the new pope,” while EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso urged the pontiff to try to bring the “world’s people and religions closer together.”
French President Francois Hollande said Paris looked forward to pursuing a “confident dialogue” with the Holy See.
In Latin America, the leaders of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico joined the clergy in hailing Bergoglio, who was elected after five rounds of voting in the Vatican — one more than when predecessor Benedict XVI was chosen in 2005.
“The faithful eagerly await the arrival of Pope Francis to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day in July,” said Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, citing her nation as having “the greatest number of Catholics in the world.”
In Africa, where the number of Catholics is steadily growing, the president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference said that, while some had hoped for a younger pontiff, all expect “great things” from Pope Francis.
“The symbolism of choosing a pope from Latin America delights and touches us, most particularly in developing countries,” said Archbishop Stephen Breslin.