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That is likely because the cardinals wanted a quick resolution after Benedict’s surprise announcement that he would retire in February, throwing the church into turmoil. Benedict was the first pope to resign in six centuries and will retire to a former nunnery inside the Vatican.

Some faithful said they hope new leader can steer the church to a more stable course.

“The welfare of the church is important to me,” said Nello Toscano, 55, a custodian waiting in St. Peter’s Square. “I don’t know much about the new pope but I hope and pray he can lead the church in these difficult times.”

Jabeen Bhatti reported from Berlin. Andre Radzischewski in Cordoba, Argentina, contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.