Multiple news organizations today went live to cover the Vatican’s announcement that it had elected the 266th Pope. Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, and The CW all cut away from scheduled programming to cover this monumental news.
Exactly 30 days ago, Pope Benedict XI (formerly known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) announced that he would step down from his post as leader of the Catholic church — itself a history-making development as the last Papal resignation took place in 1415.
The symbolic white smoke rose beginning at 2:06 p.m. ET, a day after the conclave began. Less than an hour later, France’s Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran announced who will now lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 76-year-old Archbishop of Argentina, henceforth known as Pope Francis I.
There has not been a non-European Pope in more than 1,000 years. As such, before the naming of Bergoglio, much of the networks’ speculation centered on whether the new Pope would hail from Africa or South America, southern-hemisphere continents where the Catholic population continues to grow, or even a North American country.
The unprecedented possibility of a Latin American Pope was validated when Cardinal Tauran greeted the cheering crowd to announce the election of the Buenos Aires Cardinal Bergoglio, who was presumed runner-up in the 2005 selection of Benedict XVI. Noting that Francis I will be the Vatican’s first Jesuit Pope — not to mention a leader who had encountered much criticism during his tenure in Argentina — NBC Chief Vatican Correspondent George Weigel noted, “The Papacy has moved to the New World.”
A few minutes later, Francis I took to the balcony to address the congregants in St. Peter’s Square, joking that the conclave had “gone to the ends of the world” to find its new leader. Making short work of his introductory speech, he led a prayer for for the departing Pope before turning his thoughts to a Papal path marked by “charity, brotherhood, love, and trust between us.”