MT. VERNON —
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Cardinals elected a new pope to lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics on Wednesday, overcoming deep divisions to select the 266th pontiff in a remarkably fast conclave.
Tens of thousands of people who braved cold rain to watch the smokestack atop the Sistine Chapel jumped in joy when white smoke poured out, many shouting "Habemus Papam!" or "We have a pope!" — as the bells of St. Peter's Basilica and churches across Rome pealed.
The pope, whose identity isn't yet known, is due to emerge from the loggia overlooking St. Peter's Square to deliver his first words as the bishop of Rome. The lag time was giving Romans plenty of time to get to St. Peter's and a steady stream of pilgrims and tourists were making their way.
Chants of "Long live the pope!" rose from the throngs of faithful, many with tears in their eyes. Crowds went wild as the Vatican appeared on the square, blaring music, followed by Swiss Guards in silver helmets and full regalia. At least 50,000 people jammed into the square.
"I can't explain how happy I am right down," said Ben Canete, a 32-year-old Filipino, jumping up and down in excitement.
Elected on the fifth ballot, the pope was chosen in one of the fastest conclaves in years, remarkable given there was no clear front-runner going into the vote and that the church had been in turmoil following the upheaval unleashed by Pope Benedict XVI's surprise resignation.
A winner must receive 77 votes, or two-thirds of the 115, to be named pope.
For comparison's sake, Benedict was elected on the fourth ballot in 2005 — but he was the clear front-runner going into the vote. Pope John Paul II was elected on the eighth ballot in 1978 to become the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.