Europe

Electric atmosphere as new Pope unveiled

Crowds gather as they wait for the newly elected pope to appear on the balcony of St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican after being elected by the conclave of cardinals on Wednesday evening
Image caption The crowds were kept waiting, but roared their approval once the identity of the new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics became known

There was elation on a rain-strewn St Peter's Square as white smoke billowed from the rusty chimney of the Sistine Chapel.

Brollies bounced and flags swayed as the basilica bells rang out.

The crowd swelled as Rome converged on the square, priests and pilgrims running to catch a glimpse of their new leader.

Not everyone was overawed. Roberta Guerrera, an actress who lives in the city, was caught in the crowds as she tried to make her way to a nearby Buddhist meditation centre. She seemed bemused.

But among the pilgrims clamouring to pass through the colonnades bordering the square, the mood was electric.

They were kept waiting. Before he greeted them from the basilica balcony overlooking the square, the Pope had to accept the allegiance of his cardinals, don his new white vestments and stop at the Pauline chapel for prayer and contemplation of his new role.

The crowd didn't mind - excitedly speculating about their new leader's identity.

"Viva il Papa!" they chanted, as they waited to learn his name.

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Media captionLatin American Catholics in St Peter's Square: "He is someone who can understand us completely"

Francesco. Pope Francis. The former cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, had chosen the name of an 12th Century Italian saint who turned his back on an aristocratic lifestyle to work with the poor.

Once the crowd knew the name, their chants quickly turned to "Fran-ces-co! Fran-ces-co!"

And then, to trumpet fanfare, the balcony curtains parted and he appeared above them, to bless them. But only after he had asked them to pray with - and for - him.

It was a gesture appreciated by the crowd, who roared their approval.

The Latin American contingent were particularly vocal. Tais and Nicole, visiting from Ecuador, said they were ecstatic to have Latin America's first Pope.

They said they hoped he would help bring Catholics who have turned to newer Pentecostal Churches back to the fold in Latin America.

And their expectations were big: "Bring peace to the world."

For others, simply being on the square for the historic occasion was what mattered.

Jenny Uebbing, originally from Denver but now living in Rome, said her son John-Paul was one of the last babies Benedict XVI blessed before he resigned.

"We had to be here to say hello to the new Papa," she told the BBC, as John-Paul grinned. "It's been a long Lent but now it feels like Easter has come early."