Pope Francis greets crowds in St Peter’s Square

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
The next Pope has been announced by the Catholic Church.  Pope Francis I, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has emerged as the successor to Pope Benedict XVI who recently retired.
 
Francis, who was born in Argentina of Italian parents, becomes the 266th pontiff and the first from Latin America.

He was chosen after 115 Cardinals met in the conclave and deliberated for 24 hours before white smoke signalled a decision had been reached.

There were cheers from the thousands of devotees who had assembled in St Peter’s Square in anticipation of the announcement.  The new Pope appeared on the balcony to receive the cheers, his first words to the crowds in the square were: “Brothers and sisters, good evening.”

He then asked for them to pray for him, before leaving the balcony with the words: “Good night and I wish you a peaceful rest”.

The moment will be bitter sweet for many Scottish Catholics following the revelations that led to the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien.  Cardinal O’Brien had been scheduled to go to Rome to take part in the selection process for the new pontiff but declined to attend after admitting inappropriate behaviour following sexual allegations made against him by four men.

At 76 years of age, Pope Francis is a surprise choice with speculation mounting that a much younger man may have been chosen.

Francis, who had been the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, is the first pope not born in Europe since Christopher Columbus went in search of the New World.  His selection will be seen as an acknowledgement of the strength of Catholicism in Latin America and the Global South.