VATICAN CITY, April 19 (UPI) -- The College of Cardinals elected Tuesday German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the next leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics.
Ratzinger, who turned 78 Saturday, chose the papal name Benedict XVI.
The new pope was likely selected on the fourth ballot, with the first vote on Monday evening and two votes early Tuesday failing to yield the necessary two-thirds majority required for the 264th successor to St. Peter.
The white smoke indicating the election started to lightly drift out of the chimney of the church at around 6 p.m. local time (noon EDT). The small puffs sparked applause in some parts of St. Peter's Square, but the signal was not clear for several minutes until the large bell tower of St. Peter's Basilica began to ring.
Around 40 minutes later, Jorge Media Estevez, the senior deacon of the College of Cardinals, appeared on the balcony of St. Peter's and addressed the crowd in five languages, saying "dear brothers and sisters" before the famous phrase "Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum; habemus Papum!" -- Latin for "I announce a great joy to you; we have a pope!"
Minutes later, the beaming new pope appeared on the balcony and waved at the crowd and blessed those gathered below, all to loud applause. He announced he selected the name Benedict XVI and said that the College of Cardinals he until recently headed had "selected (him), a humble man, to work in the vineyard of the Lord."
The new pontiff was forced to halt his speech several times for applause, at one time telling the crowd, "I entrust myself to your prayers."
At 11:55 a.m. local time Tuesday (5:55 a.m. EDT), black smoke was visible from the chimney for the second time this conclave.
Officially, the announcement was to have been made around two hours after the white smoke appears. But chances are most people on hand for the announcement will have already received the news on their cellular telephones, via text messages from news services. When Pope John Paul II died on April 2, cellular phone holders were alerted only six minutes after the fact, and a full two hours before the official Vatican announcement.
Vatican Radio's powerful signal sent the same news to 189 countries around the world, spreading the word in 18 languages with a signal that in theory at least reaches as much as 75 percent of the world's population.
It's all a far cry from the way the last conclave was covered in 1978.
"When John Paul I died in September 1978, my editor sent me to St. Peter's Square to ask people what they thought of the news, and they just looked at me in a funny way and wondered why I was covering the news a month after the fact -- they didn't know the pope had died, and they thought I was referring to Paul VI, who died weeks earlier," said Christopher Winner, 53, who was then a correspondent for United Press International in Rome and is now the publisher of a Rome magazine called The American.
"Covering the conclave was also very low-tech," Winner went on. "For the first one (which selected John Paul I), I just sat in the August heat in St. Peter's Square reading a book and looking up every once in a while to see if there was smoke from the chimney."
The first non-Latin announcement of the selection of Karol Wojtyla, who became John Paul II, came in English on Vatican radio, also by low-tech means. Sixty-seven-year-old Henry McConnachie was the announcer at the time, and he was able to make the announcement a few moments faster than other announcers listening in only because he understood some Latin and was able to use his powers of deduction.
"I heard the word 'Carolus' and I was thinking to myself, who could that be? Charles? Carlo? Carlos? And then they said that he was the archbishop of 'Cracoviae' and I figured out quickly that that was Krakow (Poland, John Paul II's home town) and so I made the announcement," McConnachie, who is now retired from Vatican Radio, told UPI.
The Vatican has always been quick to embrace new technologies: as John Paul II's health faded, the Vatican increasingly relied on remote hookups to help him address the faithful. And one of the first-time preparations for this conclave involved sweeping the Sistine Chapel for electronic listening devices and installing a scrambler that make cellular communications to and from the chapel impossible.
But the trend started long before that: Vatican Radio was founded in 1933, when radio technology was new, and John Paul's famous "popemobile" was considered technologically advanced when it was introduced in the mid-1980s. The Vatican's extensive Web site was unveiled in 1996, three years before the Italian government took the same step.