White smoke pouring from the Sistine Chapel chimney has announced to the world that cardinals gathered inside have elected a new Pope to head the Catholic Church.
Crowds in St Peter’s Square cheered and bells rang out as the smoke appeared.
The name of the new Pope is expected to be announced shortly.
The Catholic News Agency said people were running through the streets of Rome, hoping to reach St Peter’s Square in time for the appearance of the new Pope.
A troupe of Swiss Guards in silver helmets and full regalia marched to the Basilica in preparation for the announcement, as military bands played for the onlookers.
After his name is read out, the new Pope will emerge from the loggia overlooking the square to deliver his first speech.
He will have already accepted an invitation to become Pope and the cardinals will have sworn allegiance to him, after which he will have gone to pray alone.