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March 13, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Shortly after 2:00 EST (7:00 Rome time), white smoke billowed out of the chimney at the Sistine chapel, the bells on St. Peter's Basilica started ringing and cheers erupted from the tens of thousands gathered in St. Peter's square, their eyes eagerly trained on the small makeshift chimney. 

After an hour of anticipation, the doors of the balcony on St. Peter's Basilica opened, and senior cardinal deacon, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, stepped out on the balcony.

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“Habemus papam!” he said. “We have a pope.”

And then the moment for which 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide have been waiting. Cardinal Tauran announced the identity of the new pope: Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, an Argentine Cardinal known for his strong orthodoxy.  

Cardinal Tauran also revealed that Bergoglio has chosen the name “Francis,” the first ever pope by that name. It remains unclear whether he chose the name after Francis of Assisi, or the other great Catholic saint, Francis Xavier, who was a Jesuit, as is Pope Francis.

In his first address to the roaring crowds the new pope asked those gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “that God would bless him.”

“Let’s begin this journey of the new Pope with brotherhood, service and trust,” he continued. “Let’s pray for each other, for brotherhood throughout the world.”

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Before giving the traditional Ubi et Orbi blessing, the pope asked the crowd to pray for him, and he bowed his head for a moment of silence, during which St. Peter's Square also fell silent, as the crowds, both in the square and watching on television around the world, prayed for the new pope. 

Pope Francis is the first ever pope from Latin America. He has a reputation as a strong pro-life and pro-family advocate.

The election of Pope Francis took only five ballots. This relatively rapid election defies the expectations of many who had anticipated a considerably longer conclave. In the leadup to the conclave there was much talk about how there was no obvious front-runner, as well as the “divisions” amongst the cardinals.

The election of the new pope follows the surprise announcement by Pope Benedict XVI last month that he would abdicate the papacy. The pope had said that due to the increased weakness accompanying his advanced age – he is 85 – he felt he was unable to carry out the duties of his office.

“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” he said in a statement to a meeting of Vatican cardinals.

Following his abdication, he was highly praised by pro-life and pro-family leaders, who recalled his strong advocacy in favor of the unborn and the traditional family throughout his papacy. 

Dr. John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), described Pope Benedict's XVI's contributions to the life issues as “monumental.”

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Pro-life and pro-family activists have been closely watching the process of the election of the new pope, a man who they expect to continue to be their strongest and most visible ally.

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