Cardinal Ratzinger chosen as next Pope
The German cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger, has been chosen as the next pope, the Vatican said on Tuesday.
The decision, made in a secret conclave of cardinals from 52 countries, was made on only the second day of voting.
Ratzinger, known for his conservative views, chose Benedict XVI as his papal name. He succeeds the late Pope John Paul II who died on April 2 aged 84.
The announcement was made shortly after 6pm when white smoke billowing from a chimney in the Sistine Chapel indicated that the new pontiff had been chosen.
The smoke, which is made from burning the ballot papers, was accompanied by the ringing of the bells of St Peter’s Basilica.
Favourites had included the figurehead of the more liberal camp, Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini.
Others had tipped South American cardinals, such as Brazilian Archbishop Claudio Hummes, as strong contenders. The Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze was also thought to be in with a chance. Both men come from areas where the Catholic Church is growing.
The conclave, made up of 115 cardinals, had been cut off from the world since Monday while it appointed a new pontiff. Henri Schwery was the only Swiss cardinal to take part.
Strict security measures were imposed to ensure secrecy, including the sealing off of parts of the Vatican and a ban on mobile phones, newspapers and television.
The process to elect the 265th pontiff was a relatively short one. Voting does not normally surpass a five-day period and Pope John Paul II was elected after eight ballots.
The new pontiff heads the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics during a particularly difficult time for the Catholic Church.
Congregation numbers have been falling and the Church has been rocked by a series of priest sex-abuse scandals, particularly in the United States. The number of men entering the priesthood has also been falling in the western world.
Pope John Paul’s papacy lasted 26 years, making it the third longest in history. But he came under fire for his conservative views on women, contraception and HIV/Aids.
Swiss Catholics were often at odds with the late pontiff over his policies and the decision-making process in the Vatican.
Before the vote, some Swiss Catholic bishops said they were hoping for a reforming pope.
swissinfo with agencies
Cardinal Ratzinger, 78, is considered a strict defender of Catholic orthodoxy.
Born in Bavaria, Germany, Ratzinger was a leading theology professor and then archbishop of Munich before taking over the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in 1981.
He is the first German pope since Victor II (1055-57).
The 115-strong conclave was made up of cardinals under the age of 80. There are 117 in the church, but two were ill.
The conclave traditionally holds two votes every morning and afternoon, until a candidate emerges with a two-thirds majority.
If no candidate is chosen after 30 votes, the candidate with the highest number wins.
In theory any Catholic can be chosen pope, but the job has gone to a cardinal since 1378.
In compliance with the JTI standards
More: SWI swissinfo.ch certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative
Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!
If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at email@example.com.