In a surprise choice that rocked the Catholic world Wednesday, Cardinal Jorge Bergolglio from Argentina was elected as pope, the New York Times reports.
Bergolglio, who chose the papal name Francis, is the first pope to hail from South America and the first cardinal of the Jesuit order to hold the title. The election of a non-European pope recognizes the fact that the bulk of the Catholic population now reside in the Southern Hemisphere, especially in South America.
Pope Francis' first act as pope was to ask the faithful gathered at the Vatican to pray for his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict. A Vatican official said that the two spoke by phone Wednesday evening. Francis, who is known for his humility and devotion to the poor, chose to pass on the official limousine offered to him, choosing to ride the shuttle bus with the other cardinals back to their temporary residences Wednesday night.
Many Catholics hope that Francis will serve as a turning point at a troubled time for the church, which is mired by sex abuse scandals and power struggles within the Vatican. Although different from his predecessor in his humility, Francis is known for his traditional conservative views, including opposing abortion, same-sex marriage, and ordaining female priests, Reuters reports.
The election of Pope Francis was a relative surprise, as he was not included in lists of frontrunners for the papacy, and at 76 years old, was one of the oldest possible candidates.