After just 5 ballots, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., has been elected as the 265th successor to St. Peter the Apostle. He has chosen the name "Pope Francis I", likely after the 2nd-most well-known Jesuit, St. Francis Xavier, missionary to Asia.
With no clear front-runner going into this papal conclave, it was a surprise to many that the conclave ended so quickly. However, theories about the conclave that elected Cardinal Ratzinger indicate that Bergoglio was actually a top contender until he asked not to be named pope. While he got his wish last time, God had other plans for him this election.
While it is not that great a surprise that we now have a "Third World Pope", what may be more significant is the signal to the rest of the Church and the rest of the world. While Christianity, in general, is on the decline in Europe, the Catholic Church is very South-heavy, with a majority of Catholics living in Latin and South American countries. While the economies of the English-speaking world are struggling, the Latin and South American nations are seeing a potential for greatness that has not been seen in almost a century - and with it, the danger of materialism trumping spirituality. Additionally, choosing the name of the famous Jesuit missionary to Asia sends a strong message to the countries of Asia, particularly China, where St. Francis Xavier died and the Catholic Church is persecuted today.
Finally, when Bergoglio became archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1988, he was also named ordinary (i.e., bishop/patriarch) of the Eastern Catholic churches in Argentina, because they did not have a patriarch or bishop of their own. This New World Pope may be the one to finally bring an end to the cleaving of the Old World into Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox.
Today is a glorious day in Church history - a day of hope and splendor that even moves many non-Catholics to want to learn more about this Church that 1 billion souls call "home". To take a cue from Pope Francis' first words, let us all take a moment today to pray for God to bless him, so that he may bless us.