White smoke has been seen emerging from the Sistine Chapel chimney in Rome. The traditional signal that a new pope has been chosen officially marks the end of the election process for the Church's 266th leader.
White smoke was seen billowing from the Sistine Chapel's chimney at just after 7 p.m local time, marking the end of an historic papal electoral process to replace Benedict XVI, who announced his desire to stand down in February.
The smoke, produced by mixing the smoke from burning ballots with special flares, signifies one cardinal has received the required two-third majority, or 77-votes, needed to become the new head of the Roman Catholic Church.
After accepting the position, the 266th leader of the Church's 1.2 billion followers will shortly be dressed for the first time in papal clothes before making his way to Saint Peter's Basilica where he his identity will first become known.
Between 30 minutes and one hour will pass between the white smoke appearing, the ringing of the Basilica's bells and the new pope making his appearance on the central balcony of the church where he will address those gathered in the square and television audiences.
jlw / rc (Reuters, AP, AFP)