The world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics have a new spiritual leader.
As afternoon turned to evening in Vatican City on Wednesday, a little after 7 p.m. local time, white smoke rose from a chimney above the Sistine Chapel and bells rang through St. Peter's Square — the traditional signals that the church's cardinals have chosen a new pope.
Still to come: the identity of the cardinal chosen to take the now-retired Pope Benedict XVI's place.
Now, as NPR's Sylvia Poggioli has said, the new pope and the church face a choice: "Whether to continue an inward looking conservative path or to open up to the broader world of the faithful and introduce more collegiality, as had been indicated by the reforms of the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago."
We'll have much more about the new pope and what his selection means as the day continues. Be sure to hit your "refresh" button to see our latest updates.
The papal selection came after five votes by the 115 cardinals eligible to cast ballots. They voted once on Tuesday, twice Wednesday morning and then twice again on Wednesday afternoon. It takes a two-thirds majority (77 in this case) to become pope.
Update at 2:20 p.m. ET. First Clue To Identity Will Be Latin Version Of His Birth Name:
The new pope "will be introduced to those in the square below by French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, assuming Tauran himself has not been elected, by the Latin version of his birth name following Tauran's proclamation of the Latin phrase Habemus papam' ('We have a pope'),' writes National Catholic Reporter.
It adds that:
"Those in the square will be listening now to which first name Tauran gives. For example, should he begin introducing the new pope as 'Ioannem,' Latin for Sean, John, Juan or Giovanni, there are several possibilities for who the new pope is. Should Tauran say something more unique, perhaps 'Donaldum' for Donald or 'Aloisium' for Luis, the selection will become apparent more quickly."
We posted Tuesday on "5 Things About Popes And Their Names; Like, Why Do They Change Them?"
Update at 2:12 p.m. ET. Who Is It? We'll Know Soon:
According to Vatican Radio, which is streaming its coverage on YouTube, the identity of the new pope — who will appear on a balcony above St. Peter's Square — should be known within an hour or so. At this moment, Vatican Radio says, he's likely changing from the vestments he's worn as a cardinal into those made for a pope alone.
Catholic News Service adds that "the Vatican estimated it would be about an hour before Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the top-ranking cardinal deacon, would come out onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and confirm the election with the phrase 'Habemus papam' (We have a pope)."