Catholics in St Patrick's Cathedral in New York watching the announcement
The first-ever choice of the name Francis combined with the Latin American origins of Jorge Mario Bergoglio hint at change within the scandal-plagued Catholic Church, observers say, according to a Reuters report in The Sydney Morning Herald.
Before Cardinal Bergoglio, no pope had ever taken the name of Saint Francis of Assisi, the 13th century reformer who lived in poverty and told followers: "Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words."
Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan order, is the patron of animals, merchants and ecology, according to the website Catholic Online.
Vatican expert John Allen said the name Francis was "the most stunning choice" for the new pope's name, because a figure like Saint Francis seemed "irrepeatable".
"The new pope is sending a signal that this will not be business as usual," he said to CNN.
But the US-based National Catholic Reporter also suggested the name could be in honour of St Francis Xavier. The 16th-century Spanish Jesuit priest was "known for his efforts to evangelise, particularly in Asia."
The New Yorker has speculated the name Francis could indicate a desire for change within the Holy See. "It might matter a good deal that Bergoglio chose Francis, evoking the saint of Assisi and his commitment to the poor," wrote critic Amy Davidson.
Pope's name choice hints at 'big change' (SMH)
Pope Francis: what's in a name? (UK Telegraph)