President Barack Obama on Wednesday addressed the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as pope, offering the new leader of the Catholic church "warm wishes" and "prayers."
"On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy," Obama said in a statement from the White House. "As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years—that in each other we see the face of God."
Obama also called attention to the fact that Bergoglio, a 76-year-old from Argentina, is the first pope from the Americas to be elected by the conclave.
"As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day," the president said. "Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict XVI, I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith. We join with people around the world in offering our prayers for the Holy Father as he begins the sacred work of leading the Catholic Church in our modern world."
As 266th pope, Bergoglio will take the name Pope Francis.
UPDATE: 6:15 p.m -- Vice President Joe Biden later issued his own statement on the pope's election:
Jill and I want to offer our congratulations to His Holiness Pope Francis, and extend our prayers as he takes on this holy responsibility. I am happy to have the chance to personally relay my well wishes, and those of the American people, when I travel to Rome for his Inaugural Mass. The Catholic Church plays an essential role in my life and the lives of more than a billion people in America and around the world, not just in matters of our faith, but in pursuit of peace and human dignity for all faiths. I look forward to our work together in the coming years on many important issues.