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New Pope elected
6:14pm Wednesday 13th March 2013 in News
A NEW Pope has been elected by the conclave of cardinals in Vatican City.
White smoke has just begun to emerge, signalling the senior leaders have chosen the next head of the Catholic church.
The breakthrough came after the second vote on the second day of the gathering of the cardinals in Rome.
Although it was clear the Catholic church had chosen a new leader, the name of the new Pope was not expected to be announced until later this evening.
The conclave to choose the new pope was prompted by the dramatic resignation of pope Benedict XVI last month.
The new pope is expected to appear on the balcony of St Peter's Basilica within an hour after the 115 cardinals elected a new leader for the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
Pope Benedict XVI's resignation threw the church into turmoil and exposed deep divisions among cardinals tasked with finding a manager to clean up a Vatican bureaucracy embroiled in recent scandals.
The new pope, the 266th, will be tasked with reviving Catholicism in a time of growing secularism.
Elected on the fifth ballot, he was chosen in one of the fastest conclaves in years.
The quick election was a surprise given there was no clear front-runner going into the vote and that the church had been in turmoil following the upheaval unleashed by Pope Benedict XVI's surprise resignation.
A winner must receive 77 votes, or two-thirds of the 115, to be named pope.
The names mentioned most often as "papabile" - a cardinal who has the stuff of a pope - include Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan, an intellect in the vein of Benedict but with a more outgoing personality, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican's important bishops' office who is also scholarly but reserved like Benedict.
Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer is liked by the Vatican bureaucracy but not by all of his countrymen.
And Cardinal Peter Erdo of Hungary has the backing of European cardinals who have twice elected him as head of the European bishops' conference.
On the more pastoral side is Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, the favourite of the Italian press, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the back-slapping, outgoing archbishop of New York who has admitted himself that his Italian is pretty bad - a drawback for a job that is conducted almost exclusively in the language.