ROME -- Nuns in habits ran through the streets. People from around the world waved their national banners. Some faithful cheered, others cried.
Tens of thousands of people packed St. Peter's Square Wednesday night as 115 cardinals surprised the world by swiftly electing the 266th pope -- the first one from Latin America and the first Jesuit.
Streams of people kept pouring into the massive plaza after white smoke billowed from a chimney atop the Sistine Chapel a little after 7 p.m. That indicated, to the surprise of many who had expected a drawn-out conclave, that the cardinals had made their choice in just a little more than 24 hours after the voting began.
An hour later, the new pope, Jorge Bergoglio, appeared on a balcony on the second floor of St. Peter's Basilica. The crowd was so vast that for many toward the back he appeared tiny, barely visible.
Many said they did not know much, or anything, about Bergoglio, who took the name Francis. But that didn't dim their enthusiasm.
"I think it's great," said Margaret Waterman, 19, a student at Boston University who was spending her spring break in Rome with her mother, Carrie. "It's amazing we got to be here for it."
The two said they heard about the white smoke and quickly jumped into a cab to get to the plaza. As they got closer, the roads were so jammed the taxi was barely moving -- so they got out and ran.
So did nuns in habits they saw.
While the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI's election took place during the day, Francis' came at night. St. Peter's Basilica looked spectacular lit up by lights.
"It's emotional. It's making history," said Milagros Ramos, an immigrant from Peru who lives in Rome.
Stefano Vagl, 45, a banker, said he was rooting for Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston to become pope. But he was pleased with Bergoglio, though he said he knows little about him. Bergoglio took the name Francis, after St. Francis, who was known for his poverty and simplicity.
Bergoglio "must be a very simple person, which I like very much," Vagl said. "He asked that people pray for him."
The Rev. Nicholas Zelaya, a priest from Chile who was visiting Rome, said in Spanish, "I'm very happy," even though Bergoglio "was not the one the press was talking about."