The white smoke poured out from the Sistine Chapel chimney around 2 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, signalling that the conclave had chosen Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to be the new head of the Catholic Church.
Bergoglio, the first ever from South America and the first from outside Europe in the modern era, chose the name Pope Francis.
Bishop Luis R. Zarama of the Archdiocese of Atlanta held a press conference at 3:30 p.m. today in Smyrna to comment on the new pope.
"I was so excited. I had tears in my eyes the moment when the new pope was chosen," said Bishop Zarama. "It was a very emotional and powerful moment for all of us."
According to Catholic tradition, the newly appointed Bishop of Rome is the 266th successor of St. Peter and leader of the worldwide Catholic Church consisting of 1.2 billion Catholics.
The Catholic Church's 115 cardinal electors voted in this papal election, and the newly appointed pontiff has received at least 77 votes. The white smoke appeared after five rounds of voting.
Pope Francis, 76, is the former archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina, and succeeds Pope Benedict XVI. The new pope asked the crowd at St. Peter's Square and Catholics around the world to pray for him.
"I think Latino people have a warm way of approaching others. It would be an interesting transition between a German pope and a Latino pope," said Bishop Zarama. "I think this pope, coming from Latin America, would give a great opportunity for us to feel close to him."
When asked if he was surprised by the selection of the Buenos Aires cardinal as pontiff, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said on ABC News in Rome: "Delightfully so. I am not Argentinian, but I couldn't be happier."
Archbishop Gregory said that the Cardinal has a reputation of personal holiness, "that he is so committed to serving the poor, living simply; calling people to holiness in such a simple way that it is almost impossible to say 'no.'"
Benedict, who did not participate in the election, cited health reasons in becoming the first pope to step down in some 600 years.