It is Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina.
The new pope was born December 17, 1936, in Argentina. He is a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and was ordained in 1936.
He had been the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
He is the first South American pope.
White smoke billowed from the Vatican's Sistine Chapel at 1:05 this afternoon Central Time, indicating the papal conclave had made a selection.
The bells of St. Peter's then began ringing and the huge crowd in St. Peter's Square started cheering.
It was just more than an hour later that the new pope emerged from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.
One-hundred and 15 Roman Catholic Cardinals had locked themselves in the chapel on Tuesday to begin the secret process of selecting the new pontiff.
The selection was made on their third vote.
The new pontiff replaces Pope Benedict XVI, who served from 2005 to 2013, stepped down on February 28th. He is the first Pope in 600 years to do so.
*Habemus Papam! is the announcement given in Latin by the Cardinal Protodeacon, the senior Cardinal Deacon, upon the election of a new pope. The announcement is given from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. Source: Wikipedia
More from NBC News:
Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected the first non-European pope in more than 1,000 years on Wednesday, signaling the beginning to a new era for a church combating scandal and internal strife.
Described as a conservative with "great compassion," the 76-year-old will be known as His Holiness Pope Francis. He will be installed at the Vatican on Tuesday.
Francis named himself after the humble Catholic friar St. Francis of Assisi -- one of a number of indications that the church's new spiritual leader will be a strong advocate for the world's poor.
The first Latin American pope was introduced from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.
There was an audible gasp from the rain-soaked crowd -- an indication that he had not been a widely tipped choice - followed by a roar and wild applause.
In Italian, he seemed to address his outsider status by joking: "As you know the duty of the conclave is to give Rome a bishop. It seems that my brother cardinals went almost to the end of the world."
"Pray for me and I will see you soon," he added, asking Catholics to also pray for his predecessor Benedict XVI, who abdicated on Feb. 28. "Have a good evening and rest well."
His first act on Thursday will be to visit his predecessor, the Pope Emeritus, New York's Cardinal Tim Dolan told reporters later.
The new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics is also the first Jesuit pope.
About an hour before Francis emerged, white smoke rose above the Sistine Chapel and bells rang out across Rome to signal a decision had been made.
Known for his humility, Francis is the son of a railway worker and one of five siblings. He has a chemistry degree.
Francis has only one lung, the other having been removed due to an infection when he was a teenager.
He prizes simplicity and is expected to encourage priests to do shoe-leather evangelization, according to his biographer.
The unveiling of the new pope was moment of pure joy for the 100,000 pilgrims, tourists and other onlookers in St Peter's Square.
"Who is this?" asked Deirdre Sweeney from Boston, Mass., when Francis first walked onto the balcony.
"Argentinian!" shouted a man nearby.
"I think this is wonderful," said Sweeney's husband, Kevin. "It's an incredible breakthrough. It's a great recognition for the church that the church is not euro-centric anymore."
Another man shouted: "It's very gutsy that he chose the name Francis, he's going to be the first Francis. He wants to be a humble Pope and build the church up, from a time of ruin, like St Francis of Assisi."
Smoke billowed from the chimney at 7:07 p.m. (2:07 p.m. ET) on the second day of behind-closed-doors voting.
The cardinals are thought to have taken five ballots to reach the two-thirds of the vote necessary for a decision.
The new pontiff's debut was heralded by a Latin announcement beginning with the phrase "Habemus Papam!" meaning, "We have a pope!"
George Weigel, NBC News' Vatican analyst, said Francis would be "a great defender of religion around the world."
"The papacy has moved to the New World. The church has a new pope with a new name," he added. "I think it speaks to the church's commitment to the poor of the world and compassion in a world that often needs a lot of healing."
President Barack Obama hailed Francis as a "champion of the poor" and said the choice of the first pope from the Americas spoke "to the strength and vitality" of a region "that is increasingly shaping our world."
"Alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day," the president said in a statement.
Now known as Pope Emeritus, Francis' predecessor Benedict watched Wednesday's events from a temporary lakeside residence at Castel Gandolfo while his permanent living quarters inside Vatican City are refurbished.
The behind-the-scenes ballot process that took place in the Sistine Chapel should still remain a secret. Both the cardinals and staff working alongside them swore an oath of secrecy as the conclave got under way, with the threat of ex-communication for anyone breaking the church's ancient code.
Slideshow: Pope Francis I: His life before the papacy