The new pope, 76-year-old Jorge Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, is the first pontiff from Latin America and the first Jesuit, but he appears to hold views very much in line with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.
Bergoglio has chosen the papal name Francis, becoming the 266th to hold the title of spiritual leader of the Catholic Church.
The world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics have a new spiritual leader, and for the first time it is someone from the Americas.
As afternoon turned to evening in Vatican City on Wednesday, a little after 7 p.m. local time, white smoke rose from a chimney above the Sistine Chapel and bells rang through St. Peter's Square — the traditional signals that the church's cardinals have chosen a new pope.
Smoke just started pouring from a special chimney above the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City — and its dark color means the 115 cardinals meeting inside the chapel have not yet agreed on a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.
If all has gone as planned inside the chapel, where the cardinals are meeting in secret, they have now cast three ballots and no one name has been written on at last two-thirds of the slips of paper. It takes two-thirds — 77 votes — to become leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
Black smoke just poured from the chimney above the Vatican. That means, as was expected, the cardinals did not choose a pope on the first vote of their conclave to name a successor to the now-retired Pope Benedict XVI. As the cardinals' ballots are burned, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli says, chemicals are added to a fire in a second stove to turn the smoke black if there's no pope elected and white if there is.