“The duty of the conclave was to appoint a bishop of Rome,” said Bergoglio, 76, who took the name Francis, making him the first pope in history to do so. “And it seems to me that my brother cardinals went to fetch him at the end of the world. But here I am.”
Bergoglio is widely believed to have been the runner-up in the 2005 conclave, which yielded Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Last month, Benedict became the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign. Francis will be the first pope in twice that long to hail from outside Europe.
Shortly after his election, Francis called Benedict, now known as pope emeritus, with whom he will meet Thursday. As the third consecutive non-Italian pope, after the Polish John Paul II and the German Benedict, Francis seems to have ended the era of Italian dominance of the papacy.
Francis, who will be officially installed in a Mass on Tuesday, is a pope of firsts. The first Jesuit pope in history, he chose a name never used in the church’s 2,000-year history, signaling to Vatican analysts that he wants a new beginning for the faith.
“It’s a genius move,” Marco Politi, a papal biographer and veteran Vatican watcher, said of the selection. “It’s a non-Italian, non-European, not a man of the Roman government. It’s an opening to the Third World, a moderate. By taking the name Francis, it means a completely new beginning.”
Humility amid celebration
Applause broke out in the Sistine Chapel for Bergoglio when he crossed the threshold of 77 votes, and again when he said “Accetto,” I accept, according to Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, himself a candidate for the throne. Dolan told reporters that Bergoglio “immediately said, ‘I choose the name Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi,’ ” referring to a rich man’s son who took a vow of poverty.
After vesting in the white robes, the new pontiff looked at a white chair brought out for him on a platform and said, “Oh, I’ll stay down here,’ ” Dolan said, adding that Francis eschewed a car and instead took a bus back to the hotel with the cardinals and delivered a toast before dinner: “May God forgive you.”
“It’s highly significant for what Francis means,” said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi. “It means that he is here to serve.”
Lombardi added that after weeks of focus on a Vatican scandal over the leaking of papal letters, and all the talk about who exercises power and authority in the church, the selection of the humble Jesuit, who used to take the bus and cook for himself, amounted to a “refusal of power” and “was absolutely radical.”