New Pope Elected
By: Associated Press
VATICAN CITY -- White smoke poured from a chimney at the Vatican and bells tolled on Tuesday evening, announcing to the world that a new pope was elected in the first papal conclave of the new millennium.
Crowds in St. Peter's Square chanted: "Viva il Papa!" or "Long live the pope!"
"It's only been 24 hours, surprising how fast he was elected," Vatican Radio said, commenting on how the new pope was elected on the second day of the conclave, after just four or five ballots.
More pilgrims streamed into St. Peter's Square, waiting to find out who was selected. Prelates gathered on the roof of the Apostolic Palace.
The bells rang 6:04 p.m. (12:04 p.m. EDT) ending confusion over the smoke signal that had risen from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. White smoke is used to announce the election of a new pope, along with the ringing of bells, which was added for this conclave.
Niels Hendrich, a 40-year-old salesman from Hamburg, Germany, jumped up and down with joy and called his father on a cell phone. "Habemus papam!" he shouted into the phone, using the Latin for: "We have a pope."
Antoinette Hastings, from Kent Island, Md., rose from her wheelchair, grasping her hands together and crying. She has artificial knees, making it tough to stand.
"I feel blessed, absolutely blessed," she said. "I just wish the rest of my family were here to experience this with me."
The 265th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church succeeds John Paul II, who gained extraordinary popularity over a 26-year pontificate, history's third-longest papacy. Millions mourned him around the world in a tribute to his charisma.
Cardinals had faced a choice over whether to seek an older, skilled administrator who could serve as a "transitional" pope while the church absorbs John Paul's legacy, or a younger dynamic pastor and communicator — perhaps from Latin America or elsewhere in the developing world where the church is growing.
While John Paul, a Pole, was elected to challenge the communist system in place in Eastern Europe in 1978, the new pontiff faces new issues: the need for dialogue with Islam, the divisions between the wealthy north and the poor south as well as problems within his own church.
These include the priest sex-abuse scandals that have cost the church millions in settlements in the United States and elsewhere; coping with a chronic shortage of priests and nuns in the West; and halting the stream of people leaving a church indifferent to teachings they no longer find relevant.
Under John Paul, the church's central authority grew, often to dismay of bishops and rank-and-file Catholics around the world.
Even though John Paul appointed all but two of the men who elected the new pope, it was no guarantee that the new man would necessarily be in his mold.
Pope John XXIII was 77 when he was elected pope in 1958 and viewed as a transitional figure, but he called the Second Vatican Council that revolutionized the church from within and opened up its dialogue with non-Catholics.
The new pope will have to decide whether to keep up the kind of foreign travel that was a hallmark of John Paul's papacy, with his 104 pilgrimages abroad.