- (Photo: Reuters/Tony Gentile)
Pope Francis became the first pope to be selected from South America Wednesday, and 266th overall, as he was welcomed by thousands of adoring followers in St. Peters Square.
Pope Francis, formerly Jorge Mario Bergoglio, took his name after St. Francis of Assisi and began his papacy with a prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and also for himself as he steadies the Church during turbulent times.
Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires in 1936 and was one of five children produced from an Italian railroad worker and his Argentinian wife.
Pope Francis has been a sturdy figure in the Church for decades and became cardinal of Buenos Aires when he took over from Cardinal Quarracino on February 28, 1998.
He was concurrently named ordinary for Eastern Catholics in Argentina and was close to Pope John Paul II. He became even more noticeable when he was named archbishop to the consistory in by Pope John Paul II on February 21, 2001 in Vatican City.
That development elevated Bergoglio to the status of cardinal when he was named the Cardinal-Priest of Saint Robert Bellarmino. He served as an Argentine cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and as Archbishop of Buenos Aires since 1998. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 2001.
News of the newly elected pope comes less than a month after the Vatican revealed that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI felt he was no longer able to carry out his duties as head of the Catholic Church, due to his deteriorating health.
"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," Pope Benedict XVI statement explained.
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who left his post in 1415 as part of a deal that went to end the Great Western Schism concerning competing papal prospects.