White smoke signals Catholic church has chosen a new pope

file photo

The Catholic church chose a new pope on Wednesday, the second day of the conclave. White smoke rose over the Vatican City from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel signaling that a new pope has been elected.

Argentine Jorge Bergoglio has been elected pope, the first ever from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium. He chose the name Pope Francis.

Throngs in St. Peter's Square are chanting `'Long live the pope!," many of them with tears in their eyes. There are least 50,000 people in the square. Crowds went wild as the Vatican and Italian military bands marched through and up the steps of the basilica, followed by Swiss Guards in silver helmets and full regalia.

They played the introduction to the Vatican and Italian anthems and the crowd joined in, waving flags from around the country.

The new pope can't move into the papal apartment just yet. He will remain with the cardinals at the Vatican's Santa Marta hotel, an impersonal modern hotel on the edge of the Vatican gardens where they have been sequestered since the beginning of the conclave.

He will spend his first night as pontiff in a room that features a bed with a dark wood headboard and a carved image of Christ's face, as well as a sitting area and a study.

The new pope is expected to stay there for a few weeks until the papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace can be renovated. The apartment was sealed Feb. 28, just after Benedict resigned, and cannot be reopened until the new pope formally takes possession.

The pope's new clothes were ready before he was. The family-owned Gammarelli tailor shop, which has dressed popes for two centuries, had three sets of vestments - in small, medium and large - prepared for the naming of the new pontiff.

The papal outfits were on display in the window of the small wood-paneled store nestled in the shadow of the Pantheon, where the family moved in 1850 from the original founded just around the corner in 1798. They were delivered to the Vatican and left in a room next to the Sistine Chapel, ready for the new pope to change into his new clothes.

The pre-made looks haven't always fit. In 1958, the rotund John XXIII appeared on the balcony with safety pins holding together the back of his cassock.

The decision was made fairly quick. In centuries past, conclaves dragged on for weeks and months, sometimes years. During a 13th-century conclave that stretched for weeks, a leading candidate died.

These days the discussions are much quicker. The pope was chosen in five rounds over two days.

The previous conclave that chose Benedict XVI went four rounds over two days before the Latin announcement rang out across St. Peter's Square from the basilica's balcony: "Habemus papam" - We have a pope!

The longest conclave of the last century went on for 14 rounds over five days, and yielded Pius XI - in 1922.

Last month, Pope Benedict XVI told the thousands who gathered for his weekly audience that he was resigning for "the good of the church, an extraordinary scene that unfolded in his first appearance since dropping the bombshell announcement.

Benedict XVI said he lacks the strength to fulfill his duties and became the first pontiff in about 600 years to resign. The announcement set the stage for the conclave this month to elect a new leader for world's one billion Catholics.