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When Albino Luciani, Pope John Paul I, died suddenly after a 33-day reign in October 1978, the College of Cardinals convened to elect a new Pontiff.

Even though the conclave is shrouded in secrecy, Vatican watchers began to speculate that the cardinals would look beyond the Italians from whom they had chosen to head the Roman Catholic Church for 450 years and select an outsider.

On October 16, 1978, after two days of intense debate, the traditional plume of white smoke signifying the election of a new Pope was spotted above the Vatican. Soon, the senior-most cardinal emerged on the balcony and announced to the world, 'Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum; habemus Papum (I announce a great joy to you; we have a pope!)

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (pronounced voy-tee-wah), the Archbishop of Krakow.

At 58, the youngest Pope in a century; the first non-Italian Pontiff in four-and-a-half centuries.

The Holy Father to more than a billion Catholics. The Bishop of Rome.

John Paul II.

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Also see: Galileo: Exploring the Unknown

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