By Laura Smith-Spark. Hada Messia and Richard Allen Greene
ROME (CNN) — White smoke rose from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel Wednesday, announcing the election of a new pope who will lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was named the next pope. He is the first non-European pope.
The decision came after the fifth ballot cast by the 115 cardinals since the papal conclave began Tuesday.
The new pope succeeds Pope Benedict XVI, who became the first pope to resign in hundreds of years. He stepped down February 28, citing advanced age.
Seventy-seven votes were required to confirm a new pontiff to step into the shoes left empty by the historic resignation of Benedict XVI at the end of last month.Cardinal Bergoglio, who took the name Pope Francis, will take on the leadership of a church that has been rocked by child sex abuse scandals and corruption claims in recent years.
White or black smoke?
Earlier, black smoke poured from the chimney at 11:39 a.m., indicating that no result came from the first two rounds of votes held Wednesday morning.
The smoke came somewhat earlier in the day than expected because once the cardinals are familiar with the voting procedures, they can move relatively quickly, according to the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman.
After the two morning ballots, the cardinal-electors — those aged under 80 who are eligible to vote — went to lunch in the Casa Santa Marta hotel, where they are staying.
In response to a question about criticism leveled against some cardinals by a group representing the victims of clerical sex abuse, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, the Vatican spokesmen defended their right to take part in the conclave.
“We are very well aware of SNAP and their activities,” Rosica said. “SNAP have chosen this event to amplify their activities.”
The cardinals named by SNAP “are worthy of our esteem,” he said.
Last week, SNAP released its “Dirty Dozen” list of men it judged would be the worst candidates for pope because of their handling of, or comments on, past allegations of child sex abuse against clergy.
In one high-profile case, four California men who alleged clerical sex abuse have settled their lawsuits against their former priest, the Los Angeles Archdiocese and Cardinal Roger Mahony for almost $10 million, their attorneys said Tuesday.
In the run-up to the conclave, victims’ groups called on Mahony not to take part because of his handling of the abuse scandal.
Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for Mahony, said the allegations predated his time as archbishop.
The emergence of such sex abuse scandals has shaken global confidence in the church in recent years, and dealing with the issue effectively is sure to be a priority for the new pope.
The new pontiff is likely to lead the Angelus prayers Sunday, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said. The first public Mass would be the inauguration Mass.
Black smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel Tuesday night, after the cardinals failed to choose a new pope in the first vote of their conclave.
Huddled under umbrellas as rain came down, crowds of onlookers watched the chimney and big screens set up in St. Peter’s Square.
Filipino priest and CNN iReporter Joel Camaya was among a number of Catholic faithful in the square who watched as the black smoke poured out.
There was “a collective sigh of disappointment and everyone started heading home,” he said. “There was no pope, yet.”
The public interest reflects the “very intense and beautiful period” the church is experiencing at the moment, Lombardi said. “We are feeling the level of intensity of the wait. We saw many people in the square last night, a lot more than I myself had expected.”
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI also watched on television as the black smoke rose on Tuesday, Lombardi said.
Benedict had earlier watched on TV as the scarlet-clad cardinals attended a special Mass and took their oath of secrecy in the Sistine Chapel to begin the conclave to elect his successor, he said.
The Vatican received calls Tuesday night from people concerned that the heavy black smoke might have caused damage to the Sistine Chapel or created problems for the cardinals, Rosica said.
But, he said, he could confirm that the frescoes have not been damaged and that the cardinals are enjoying good health.
CNN’s Richard Allen Greene and Hada Messia reported from Rome and Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London. CNN’s Ben Brumfield and Stephen Howie contributed to this report.
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