Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has been elected as the new pope. Appearing on the balcony above the main entrance to St Peters basilica at just after 18.30 Tuesday 19 April, the 78-year-old German waved briefly to the Romans, tourists and religious in the square many of whom had come running when they heard the bells announcing to the city and to the world the successful outcome of the conclave before saying: Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope, John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble worker in the Lord's vineyard. The new pontiff, who has taken the name of Benedict XVI then blessed the crowd as bands played and many people screamed and cheered.

The white smoke the sign of a successful election issued from the tiny chimney atop the Sistine Chapel earlier than expected, at around 17.50, catching reporters and onlookers by surprise. The initial squeals of excitement gave way to a long moment of confusion, as it was not immediately clear whether the smoke was black signalling an unsuccessful round of voting or white. Then the cry: E bianca! Its white! Long live the pope! The people nearest the basilica surged forward in a rush of enthusiasm, clapping and waving their flags in excitement.

Soon after, at just after 18.00, the bells rang out, and were echoed by others across the city. The square quickly filled with people, presenting an unexpected problem for the security personnel, who blew their whistles and directed people aggressively. Some time later, as the crowd was beginning to get impatient, the Chilean cardinal Jorge Arturo Estvez appeared on the balcony surrounded by cardinals and pronounced the words that everyone was waiting to hear: Habemus Papam. Some people screamed hysterically on hearing the news, while others burst into tears; others still fell silent. The group of Poles holding a banner reading Polonia sempre fedelis may perhaps have been thinking of their pope, the late John Paul II, who died on 2 April after a long illness, and who Benedict XVI now has to follow.