The successor to John Paul II has been elected, Vatican Radio announced Tuesday evening. Bells chimed at St. Peter's Basilica and tens of thousands of flag-waving pilgrims filled the square, chanting: "Viva il Papa!" or "Long live the pope!"
The bells rang after a confusing smoke signal that Vatican Radio initially suggested was black but then declared was too difficult to call. White smoke is used to announce a pope's election to the world.
"It's only been 24 hours — surprising how fast he was elected," Vatican Radio said, commenting on how the new pope was elected after just four or five ballots.
The late John Paul II showed us that the papacy still mattered, and can matter in unforseeable ways. We shall soon discover if this is to be a lasting legacy.
Update: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger is now Pope Benedict XVI. As he has been in charge of doctrine at the Vatican since 1981, there probably will not be a great departure in church teaching. As for the ministry of the Roman Bishop (Episcopus Romanus translates to Roman Bishop, not, as some would have it, Bishop of Rome, which is Episcopus Romae), we shall see how the new successor fills the considerable shoes of the last one.
He will be the first German pope in about a thousand years, and the first Benedict in almost a century.
[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]