(CNN) - For the first time in the modern era, a non-European was elected Wednesday to lead the church as pope.
Stepping into that historic role is Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, who will be called Pope Francis. He is the first pontiff from South America.
With its approximately 480 million adherents, Latin America is home to an overwhelming plurality of the world's Catholics. By choosing him, the cardinals sent a strong message about where the future of the church may lie.
Francis, 76, served as the archbishop of Buenos Aires.
(CNN) - Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, the new pope, is breaking historic ground by choosing the name Francis.
It's the first time the name is being used by a pope, said CNN Vatican expert John Allen.
Pope Francis chose his name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi because he is a lover of the poor, said Vatican deputy spokesman Thomas Rosica.
"Cardinal Bergoglio had a special place in his heart and his ministry for the poor, for the disenfranchised, for those living on the fringes and facing injustice," Rosica said.
St. Francis, one of the most venerated figures in the Roman Catholic Church, was known for connecting with fellow Christians, Rosica added.
Allen described the name selection as "the most stunning" choice and "precedent shattering."
Rome (CNN) - Pope Francis, the first non-European pontiff of the modern era, revealed himself to the world from a balcony at the Vatican on Wednesday.
Jorge Bergogolio, who served as archbishop of Buenos Aires, took the name Francis shortly after being elected by cardinals in what was apparently the fifth round of voting on the second day of the conclave.
"As you know, the duty of the conclave was to appoint a bishop of Rome," Francis told a cheering crowd of thousands packed into St. Peter's Square.
"It seems to me that my brother cardinals have chosen one who is from faraway. ... Here I am. I would like to thank you for your embrace."
The new pope called on the thousands packed into the square - and those watching around the world - to pray for him before he delivered a blessing.
Bergogolio, 76, is the first pope to take the name after St. Francis of Assisi, revered among Catholics for his work with the poor.
The new pontiff is considered a straight shooter who calls things as he sees them, and a follower of the church's most conservative wing.
Live blog: Argentina's Bergogolio elected new pope
By Dan Merica and Adam Aigner-Treworgy, CNN
Washington (CNN) - The White House announced on Wednesday that President Barack Obama has named Melissa Rogers, a religious academic, to the highest religious outreach job in the White House.
Rogers, who worked with the Obama administration during the planning of his first inauguration in 2009, will become Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, a job that includes working with outside religious groups and acting as the top White House official on religious issues.
The job was left vacant when Joshua DuBois stepped down in January after over four years in the position.
In a press release about Rogers, DuBois called her an "excellent and truly visionary choice to lead the White House faith-based office."
By Laura Smith-Spark, Hada Messia and Richard Allen Greene, CNN
Black smoke poured from the chimney fixed to the roof of the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday morning, indicating that the cardinals' first two votes of the day were inconclusive.
The 115 voting cardinals are taking part in the second day of the secretive conclave to elect a new pope.
They will have two more opportunities to vote later Wednesday.
A two-thirds majority is required to confirm a new pontiff to step into the shoes left empty by the historic resignation of Benedict XVI at the end of last month.
By Ashley Killough, CNN
(CNN) - As cardinals gather at the Vatican to elect a new pope, President Barack Obama said he believes U.S. politics wouldn't stand in the way of an American pope doing his job.
"It seems to me that an American pope would preside just as effectively as a Polish pope or an Italian pope or a Guatemalan pope," the president said in an interview that aired Wednesday morning on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Since Benedict XVI resigned at the end of last month, some American names have circulated in media reports as possible contenders for the papacy, including U.S. cardinals Sean O'Malley of Boston and Timothy Dolan of New York.
Critics argue an American pope would be controversial, saying the Vatican would then be too closely tied to Washington.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.