More than an hour after white smoke surged from the Vatican chimney, it was announced that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been selected as the new Pope.
Astonishingly, he is from Argentina. Incredibly, he's a Jesuit.
Both are absolute firsts.
I'm neither a Catholic nor a Vatican watcher, but the selection of the Pope is one of those events that places us in the continuous flow of Western history.
The crowd in St. Peter's Square knew this instinctively. Over 100,000 people jammed the Square, in the dark (it was after 7:30 p.m. when the smoke was first seen) and in the rain. Brightly colored umbrellas perched over the crowd and cell phone cameras flashed in the dark like sequins. They sang, they chanted, they cheered; wave after wave of spontaneous voices filling the time between the sighting of the smoke and the final announcement.
When the new Pope- he will be called Francis 1- finally stepped onto the balcony and spoke, he seemed modest, almost shy.
Speaking in Italian with a slight Latin American accent, he joked with the crowd before delivering a blessing, saying: "As you know the duty of the conclave is to give Rome a bishop. It seems that my brother cardinals went almost to the end of the world."
I'll leave the rest of the analysis in the capable hands of Whispers in the Loggia:
name of the founder of his community's traditional rivals, the 266th Roman
pontiff – the first from the American continent, home to more than half of the
1.2 billion-member church – has signaled three things: his desire to be a force
of unity in a polarized fold, a heart for the poor, and his intent to "repair
God's house, which has fallen into ruin"... that is, to rebuild the