"This is a blessing for Argentina" - South America celebrates with Bergoglio election
JUBILANT Argentines poured into churches to celebrate the surprise announcement that one of their own - Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio - was the first Latin American pope, and many hoped he'd bring change to a Church in crisis.
People throughout the mainly Roman Catholic country rushed to churches, some crying and praying that the 76-year-old Jesuit can bolster faith in the Vatican after a series of scandals.
"I hope he changes all the luxury that exists in the Vatican, that he steers the church in a more humble direction, something closer to the gospel," said Jorge Andres Lobato, a 73-year-old retired state prosecutor.
"This is a blessing for Argentina," one woman shouted in the streets of central Buenos Aires.
Few Argentines thought Bergoglio, known for his ascetic lifestyle and dedication to the poor, would be chosen.
Within minutes, Twitter feeds went wild with the phrase "The hand of God, again," in reference to soccer star Diego Maradona, one of Argentina's best-known sons, who famously used the phrase after being accused of using his hand to score a goal against England in the 1986 World Cup.
Bergoglio - who has spoken in favor of dialogue rather than dogma as the remedy to the problems faced by the Church - joked about Argentina's far-flung position in South America in his first public comments from the Vatican after being elected.
His brother Cardinals "went to the end of the world" to find a new Pope, he said.
Bergoglio will be known as Pope Francis I, or Francisco I in the Spanish-speaking world.
The decision by 115 cardinal electors sequestered in a secret conclave in the Sistine Chapel came sooner than many experts expected because there were several front runners before the vote to replace Pope Benedict, who resigned in February.
The cardinals faced a thorny task in finding a leader capable of overcoming crises caused by priestly child abuse and a leak of secret papal documents that uncovered corruption and rivalry inside the Church government or Curia.
The wave of problems is thought to have contributed to Benedict's decision to become the first pontiff in 600 years to abdicate.