Former Pope Benedict XVI elected new pope

The former pope humbly accepts the decision of his peers to elect him the new pope

The former pope humbly accepts the decision of his peers to elect him the new pope

Former Pope Benedict XVI appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to rapturous applause this evening, having been elected the new pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

“It is an honour beyond words” said Benedict as he stood before thousands of cheering faithful. “That I, until now a simple former pope, would be elevated, by the grace of God, to this place.”

White smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican this morning (NZDST), serving as a sign that the conclave of 115 Cardinals, after five ballots and two days of intense soul-searching amongst their ranks, had agreed on a new pope.

The choice of Benedict, 85, who had previously served as pope from April 15th, 2005 to February 28th, 2013, came as no surprise to most knowledgeable observers of the Catholic Church.

“The church made it very clear that they were interested in doing whatever they could to maintain the bureaucratic stability of their order” said CNN’s Vatican expert John Allen. “But to their credit, they also wanted someone who would reform the church, just a little bit, by correcting some of the former pope’s mistakes. And there was no one, in their mind, who knew the mistakes of Pope Benedict better than Pope Benedict himself.”

The choice was met with widespread praise, most notably from the new pontiff. “It is with pleasure and great humility that I accept, this evening, the calling of my brothers to serve” he said. “I assure them that they have made an excellent decision, one that they will surely never regret.”

Cardinals spoken to after the ballot cited “experience” and “continuity” as their primary concerns when making their decision. “It was really good to have someone with solid papal experience in the mix” said Cardinal Desmond Connell, a personal friend of Pope Benedict XVI. “It’s not often you find those sorts of credentials in a prospective pope.”

In an unusual move, the new pope has yet to settle on a papal name, in large part due to a raucous disagreement between him and the other cardinals. Benedict would reportedly like to name himself “Pope Excelsior”, but the cardinal electors have instead suggested “Pope Francis.” Benedict maintains, at this hour, that Francis is a girl’s name.

The ballot that elected the new pope was understood to be nearly unanimous, but there were still some cardinals, amongst them Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the United States, who questioned the wisdom of the decision. The former and newly elected pope has been known to resign without warning, and they fear that a repeat of that incident could send them right back to a conclave within a few months. “And conclave is fucking terrible” said Dolan.