“It seems my brother cardinals went almost to the end of the world [to choose a pope],” he told the crowd in St Peter’s Square in his first address.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, as he was up until 13 March, tweeted moments after the announcement of his election by the Vatican conclave to say: “Immensely happy to be the new Pope, Francis I.”
Pundits did not see him as a favourite for the job of succeeding Benedict XVI and his advanced age – at 76, he is just two years younger than Benedict at the time of his election in 2005 – may surprise those expecting a younger man as the 266th pope.
However, he appeals to both Church conservatives and reformers, being seen as orthodox on sexual matters, for instance, but liberal on social justice.
“We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least,” he was quoted as saying by the National Catholic Reporter at a gathering of Latin American bishops in 2007.
“The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.”