Some minutes after 7 p.m. today white smoke emerged from the Sixtine Chapel in the Vatican, announcing to the world that the papal conclave had elected a new pontiff on the fifth ballott. The choice fell on 76-year-old Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, who chose to reign under the name of Francis.
The new Pope is the first Latin American pontiff and the first non-European since Gregory III, who reigned from 731 to 741. He is also the first Jesuit Pope, and reportedly chose the name Francis I in honour of Saint Francis Xavier (Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta), one of the co-founders of the Jesuit order, or Saint Francis of Assisi. Except for John Paul I, who became the first pope to assume a double name when combining the names of his two immediate predecessors, Francis I is the first pontiff to choose an entirely new name since the little-known Lando, who reigned briefly from 913 to 914.
It remains to be seen whether he will be officially styled Francis I or just Francis. It is not unusual for the first monarch of a name not to use a numeral; for instance, the English sovereign now called Elizabeth I was generally known as simply Queen Elizabeth until 1952, when Elizabeth II came along, like Queen Victoria will become known as Victoria I if there one day is a Victoria II. Among the current European monarchs we find Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands without an ordinal, but King Juan Carlos I of Spain with one.
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