White smoke poured from the roof of the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday and the bells of St. Peter's Basilica pealed, signaling that cardinals had chosen a new pope to lead the troubled Roman Catholic Church after only five ballots.
The decision by 115 cardinal electors came sooner than many faithful expected because of the large number of possible frontrunners identified before the vote to replace Pope Benedict, who resigned in February.
The name of the new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics was expected to be announced in around half an hour from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.
The secret conclave began on Tuesday night with a first ballot in the Renaissance splendor of the chapel and four ballots were held on Wednesday. The white smoke indicated the new pontiff had obtained the required two thirds majority in the fifth ballot.