By adopting the name Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio becomes the first pontiff to inaugurate a name since Albino Luciani became John Paul I in 1978.

His reasons for choosing Francis are most likely a tribute to two beloved Catholic saints.

Saint Francis of Assisi, who founded the Franciscan Order of Friars in 1209, was known for renouncing wealth and living in poverty, an issue close to the heart of Bergoglio, who is seen as a champion of the poor, and lives in his own apartment outside Buenos Aires rather than the bishop's palace.

"By choosing the name Francis, one understands immediately what his mission is," Father Thomas Rosica of the Holy See Press Office told CBC's chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge, reporting from Vatican City.

Choosing the name of one of Italy's patron saints also ties the new pope to Italy, the homeland of the vast majority of popes over the centuries, as well as where the Bergoglios came from.

But the name may also be paying homage to Saint Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Jesuits in the 16th century, who travelled throughout Asia and converted more than a million people to Christianity.

"When he went out onto the balcony he spoke about evangelization and one of the great evangelizers of the church is the Jesuit Francis Xavier," Father Darren Dias, associate professor of theology at the University of St. Michael's College, told CBC News. 

"There's also Francis Assisi who is known for his humble demeanour, his reconciling spirit and maybe that's also the reason he chose the name Francis. So those are two good saints that would probably be consistent with his personality and his mission."

With files from The Associated Press