VATICAN CITY (REUTERS) - White smoke rose from the Vatican's Sistine Chapel on Wednesday signaling cardinals had elected a new pope to succeed Benedict and take charge of the troubled Roman Catholic Church.
At the same time the bells of St. Peter's pealed.
The election, on the first full day of voting by the 115 cardinals, came more quickly than many had expected after no obvious front runner had emerged following the surprise abdication of Benedict last month.
The identity of the new pope will be announced to the world from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica within an hour, after a church official announces "Habemus Papum" - "We have a pope" - and gives the name of the new pontiff in Latin.
The conclave was called after Pope Benedict XVI resigned last month, throwing the church into turmoil and exposing deep divisions among cardinals tasked with finding a manager to clean up a corrupt Vatican bureaucracy as well as a pastor who can revive Catholicism in a time of growing secularism.