(Photo: Reuters/Tony Gentile)
A new pope to succeed Pope Benedict XVI has been chosen by Roman Catholic cardinals as white smoke was seen puffing out of the Sistine Chapel chimney on Wednesday.
The name of the new pope has not yet been revealed, but is expected shortly. The decision by the 115 voting cardinals gathered in Vatican City of who will lead the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world was made relatively quickly, with the cardinals only starting to gather yesterday.
The cardinal conclave this week is special in that the former pope is still alive and is the first pope in nearly 600 years to step down from the position of Pontiff. The last Roman Catholic Church head to do so was Pope Gregory XII, who did so to end the Great Schism when several clerics claimed the position.
Benedict announced that he would step down from the office on Feb. 11, citing "advanced aged" as the reason for his resignation. He officially stepped down at the end of last month. Benedict, who is 85, said, "After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry."
"Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff."
Benedict's election took less than 24 hours, being that he was very close to Pope John II and was understood to be the successor. The past six popes have all been elected within four days.
Benedict, who now has the title of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, did not participate in voting for his successor, according to USA Today.