by tradition a New pope is elected as White smoke has risen from the Sistine Chapel, signalling cardinals have agreed on a new pope.
The 115 cardinal electors entered the conclave in the Sistine's Renaissance splendour yesterday and held their first inconclusive ballot that evening (local time).
Black smoke emerged again early today after the cardinals held two morning ballots, but the evening ballot saw a new leader elected.
The new pope will appear on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica within the hour.
Before returning to the conclave they had prayed for inspiration from God to choose a leader who can lead the Church out of scandal and internal strife.
Only one man since the start of the 20th century, Pius XII in 1939, was elected within three ballots, with seven ballots on average required over the last nine conclaves. Pope Benedict, who stepped aside last month, was the clear frontrunner in 2005 and elected after only four ballots.
Pilgrims and tourists began arriving in St. Peter's Square early in the morning, hoping to get a glimpse of history by spotting white smoke.
"It's a wonderful time, a historical moment," said Monsignor Ronny Jenkins, General Secretary of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"It's very unique. It's an incredible moment, but we want the rain to go away," he added with a laugh.
The cardinals were shut inside for the secret election under Michelangelo's luminous frescoes in the chapel late on Tuesday after a day of religious pomp and prayer to prepare for the task.