March 14, 2013
At 7.06pm, a rain-swept but packed St Peter’s Square erupted with a mix of joy and not a little shock as clouds of white smoke told the crowds – and the rest of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics – that a new pontiff had been chosen on just the second day of voting.
But the noise that greeted the billowing smoke was nothing compared to the sound that met Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires when he appeared on the balcony as the 266th successor of St Peter.
By 8.10pm local time when the newly elected Pope Francis I emerged in white papal robes to cheers of “Viva il Papa” (“Long live the Pope”), the crowds stretched back from the vast Piazza way to the end of Via della Conciliazione, the 500-metre long road connecting the Vatican to the Tiber.
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