Vatican signals with white smoke - New Pope chosen

Photo courtesy Vatican News

Click here to watch live broadcast as the new pope, his name not yet revealed, is expected to greet the masses from the balcony of St. Peter's Basillica shortly.

VATICAN CITY — White smoke poured out of the Sistine Chapel chimney Wednesday to roars of joy from the throngs jamming St. Peter's Square.

The chosen cardinal became pope the moment he accepted the election results and selected the name he will use as pope. He was then led to the Room of Tears where he was fitted with the appropriate vestments and given time to pray privately about the awesome responsibility to be named the Holy Father.

Then he returns to the Sistine Chapel where the other 114 cardinals each individually pledge their allegiance to him. After that, the cardinal deacon steps out onto the balcony first to announce "Habemus Papem!" -- We have a pope!

The 115 voting cardinals took four or five votes over two days to reach their decision, which required a two-thirds majority and came after a week of intense meetings. The cardinal conclave came on the heels of the surprising resignation of Pope Benedict XVI last month.

Benedict, who did not participate in the election, cited health reasons in becoming the first pope to step down in some 600 years. In his eight years the church solidified its message on core Catholic values such as opposition to abortion and gay marriage, and saw gains in membership in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

But his departure comes at a time when the church has lost membership in Europe and the United States, is dealing with financial mismanagement of church assets and still trying to overcome the "scourge" as Benedict described the past cases of priests who molested children.

Still, the mood of the faithful in front of St. Peter's Basilica was celebratory following the news. The first vote took place late Tuesday. Two morning votes Wednesday brought similar results -- black smoke from the Sistine Chapel's chimney that meant no decision on a new pope had been reached.