The cardinals who participated in the election of Pope John Paul I emerged from their isolation in the Sistine Chapel yesterday morning expressing gratification at the degree of unity that brought the quick result.

John Cardinal Krol of Philadelphia, speaking to journalists waiting for the prelates to appear, said, "We worked. It was quick, but it was a tremendous sign of unity, considering how many cardinals there were."

Later the American cardinals held a meeting with reporters on the lawn of the American College in Rome in which they described Albino Luciani, the new pope, as an outgoing, humble and forward-looking man of God.

Cardinal John Carberry of St. Louis said "none of us expected" the move toward Cardinal Luciani. "It just developed."

The process, he said, was spurred by "a great spirit of unity," adding that no special external factors had caused the unexpected choice.

"He's taught theology, and he wants to keep the church true to solid theology," said Carberry, who has been critical of elleged lax doctinal teaching in the church.

Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York said Luciani was in his mind as a possible pope at the start of the conclave. He said, however, "We did not expect the vote so soon."

He described John Paul as "a humble, kind and pastrol teacher and father - a man of God. We can look to the future with great hope knowing full well that Pope John Paul will guide us in the ways of the gospel."

Asked if Luciani's personality started the unexpected groundswell of support, Cooke said that was not the complete reason, "but it helped."

As did many of the other American cardinals Cooke spoke of the Holy Spirit as "what brought us together so marvelously. There's no question but that it was the wish of the Lord."

Cardinal Krol said he had "never seen the Holy Spirit act in such a dramatic fashion. It was really a delightful surprise."

Cardinal Humberto Medeiros of Boston said, "The experience filled me then and it fills me now."

"We were really praying up a storm," Krol said. "There was tranquility and serenity and in the end a sense of exhilaration.

Cardinals John Dearden of Detroit and William Baum of Washington both stressed that the new pope was committed to continuing ecumenical work toward Christian unity.

"He's very strongly dedicated to that," said Dearden, who also spoke of the "emotion that took place" in the conclave as "really the work of the Holy Spirit."

When one reporter referred to Pope John Paul as a conservative, Dearden replies, "I think you'll have to get away from that conservative label. It's too strong. I'd say he's very moderate."

Krol was asked how he would explain to Americans the fact that the new pope's father was a socialist.

"I'd say socialism is nothing that cannot be cured," he said, noting that the pope was brought up in a family that was open to the influence of the church.

One of the Italian cardinals who had been mentioned as a front-runner before the conclave began, Giovanni Benelli of Florence, said to reporters as he left the chapel, "We are very happy. The fact we were so quick proves one great truth: the great unity of the church. That men from so many different countries and cultures can sit down and agree on one man in less than 24 hours is witness to this."

"Viet et bon " (quick and good), said Paul Cardinal Zoungrana of Ouagadougou in Upper Volta. "Now let us hope for a quick consecration so we may return to our flock in Africa."

Several cardinals were astonished that the crowds in St. Peter's Square, as well as Vatican Radio and all the television crews, had trouble reading the final smoke, signals that began at 6:24 p.m. (12:24 p.m. EDT) Saturday.

"We couldn't get it any whiter," said Cardinal Eduardo Pironio of Argentina, one of those tending the stove. "All 11 white chemical flares were stuffed into the stove in hope of sending out a clear sign that a pope had been elected on the very first day of voting."

Journalists waiting in St. Peter's Square first called the billowing cloud gray, then white, then gray. They stood puzzled until - after about 54 minutes - the election was announced.