Skip to main content

First Latin American pope 'very exciting,' faithful say

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
March 14, 2013 -- Updated 1725 GMT (0125 HKT)
Before becoming Pope Francis, he was Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires. The announcement for the selection of a new pope came on Wednesday, March 13, the first full day of the cardinals' conclave in the Sistine Chapel. Before becoming Pope Francis, he was Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires. The announcement for the selection of a new pope came on Wednesday, March 13, the first full day of the cardinals' conclave in the Sistine Chapel.
HIDE CAPTION
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Today is a historic day," Argentina's president says
  • Priest: The pope's past as the son of immigrants could resonate with Latinos
  • Mexican bishops say his selection is "a sign of love" for Latin American churches
  • Pope Francis is the first pope from Latin America

(CNN) -- Catholic faithful from Latin America cheered the historic election of the first pope from the region Wednesday.

Crowds swarmed outside the metropolitan cathedral in Buenos Aires, chanting as they waved Argentine flags. Smiling immigrants and tourists praised the news on the steps of New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral. Pilgrims at Mexico City's Basilica of Guadalupe said they were thrilled.

Even though about 480 million of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics live in Latin America, for centuries, the church's top job has gone to Europeans.

That changed with the announcement that Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who served as archbishop of Buenos Aires, would become the new pontiff. Bergoglio, 76, chose the name Pope Francis.

"I felt like crying. I felt great excitement. It is a blessing from God," said Ines Ambrosi, who spoke to CNN en Español outside New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral shortly after the news was announced. "In Latin America there are millions of Catholics and truly it has been a bit forgotten by the church. Now we feel very represented, and proud."

New pope adopts the name Francis

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner -- whose government has sparred with Bergoglio in the past -- sent a letter congratulating him as he assumed his new role.

"Today is a historic day. ... For the first time in 2,000 years of the church there is going to be a pope that comes from Latin America," she said later at an event broadcast on public television. "And from our hearts we wish for Francis that he can accomplish a greater degree of fraternity between peoples and religions."

Talk Back: What kind of spiritual leader will draw people back to organized religion?

Argentine Martin Watson compared the new pope to another kind of celebration that has historically been far more common in his country.

"The news, for us, was almost like winning the World Cup in soccer," he said.

But he added that the papal pick goes beyond national pride.

"For Latin America, it will be a great change. More eyes will be focused on our region, and maybe we'll have more support for our region," he said. "We have a lot of needs. We have more than 50% in each country of the region (that) are very poor. That would be a great help for them."

5 things to know about the new pope

Excitement spreads beyond Argentina

Mexico's Catholic bishops released a statement praising the news.

"For the churches that are pilgrims in Latin America, it is the cause of great joy," the statement said. "For the Mexican church, it is a clear sign of love for the churches that are pilgrims in these lands."

Latin American catholics: So proud, happy

In St. Peter's Square in Vatican City, a woman from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, told CNN's Anderson Cooper she was overcome with emotion.

"I feel that Mexico has been a country that has suffered a lot, and so has Latin America, but it is a people that has always put trust in God," she said, "so it is absolutely wonderful to represent our part of the world this time around."

Beside her, a woman from Mexico City said her heart jumped when she heard the announcement that a pope had been picked.

A look at the life of Cardinal Bergoglio

"I'm so excited," she said. "It's a reason of being proud tonight, because Latin America is a very important Catholic area and now it's going to be totally represented here, so I'm so proud and I'm so happy today. ... It's going to help a lot, a Latin American pope, it's going to help. It's going to rebuild many things, and it's a new start."

In Brazil, the secretary-general of the country's Council of Bishops said he and many others were surprised, but happy, that Bergoglio was chosen.

"It is a very beautiful sign that the cardinals gave us by electing a Latin American cardinal, now our Pope Francis," said Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, according to state-run Agencia Brasil. "It shows that the church is truly universal."

In Venezuela, interim leader Nicolas Maduro suggested the late President Hugo Chavez -- who died last week -- could have influenced the church's historic move.

"We know that our commander ascended to those heights," Maduro said in remarks broadcast on state-run VTV. "He is face to face with Christ. He influenced something. ... Some new hand arrived, and Christ said, well, the new hour of South America has arrived."

Before Wednesday's announcement, speculation had surged that the church might select its first non-European pope of the modern era.

What's in a name?

"It would be an enormous gesture to name a Latin American pope," Virginia Garrard-Burnett, a professor of history and religious studies at the University of Texas at Austin, said earlier this week.

Because Catholicism is losing ground in the region, a pope from there could be a boost for the faith, she said.

Priest: Pope gives hope and pride to U.S. Latinos

The pick is also good news for Catholic Latinos in the United States, said the Rev. Juan J. Molina, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops associate director for the church in Latin America.

"He is also the son of migrants. And for us, Hispanics in the United States, this is very important. ... I think that this topic of migration is going to be very important for him," Molina told CNN en Español. "And we, the Hispanics, the Latinos that now live in the United States ... we can also take some hope and pride that this pope intimately knows and has deeply lived the life of a migrant."

New pope's name choice 'precedent shattering'

Bergoglio's selection also sends a significant message throughout Latin America, Molina said, where the Catholic faith has had a strong presence for centuries.

"The election of a Latin American pope demonstrates that we are now empowered with this faith," Molina said. "The church in Latin America is a mature church."

Even the new pope himself alluded to the fact that the church had reached farther than ever for its papal pick.

In his first speech from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, he quipped Wednesday that cardinals had gone to "the end of the world" to find him.

CNN's Mariano Castillo and Marysabel Huston-Crespo in Atlanta, CNNMexico and Rey Rodriguez in Mexico City, Jose Manuel Rodriguez in Buenos Aires, Juan Carlos Lopez in Washington and Rafael Fuenmayor in New York contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 2059 GMT (0459 HKT)
Pope Francis wants to bring hope to Christians and other ethnic and religious groups suffering "brutal persecution" in Iraq and Syria.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1354 GMT (2154 HKT)
The Pope unleashes a blistering critique of the Vatican bureaucracy criticizing its "illnesses" and likening the church to "a sick body."
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 2232 GMT (0632 HKT)
Pope Francis celebrated his birthday with a major geopolitical wish granted: The end of frozen relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
December 2, 2014 -- Updated 1659 GMT (0059 HKT)
Pope Francis said that modern slavery is a "crime against humanity" and is "unfortunately becoming worse and worse every day."
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 2231 GMT (0631 HKT)
Pope Francis is to make his first trip to the United States as the head of the Catholic Church next September.
A Vatican report says the church should welcome and appreciate gays and lesbians.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1259 GMT (2059 HKT)
Using his strongest language to date, Pope Francis told Italian Mafia members that they are excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
June 20, 2014 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
Drugs, capitalism, homosexuality -- no topic has been off limits for Pope Francis so far.
June 14, 2014 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
Pope Francis reveals he prefers not to use a bulletproof Popemobile because it is a glass "sardine can" that walls him off from people.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 0458 GMT (1258 HKT)
Palestinian Authority President Abbas and Israeli President Peres committed themselves to the quest for peace in the Middle East with Pope Francis.
May 23, 2014 -- Updated 1846 GMT (0246 HKT)
As the Holy Land prepares for a papal visit, Ivan Watson speaks to the man preparing to honor the pontiff with his food.
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1631 GMT (0031 HKT)
Not a jot of doctrine has changed in the year since Francis became Pope. But there's more than one way to measure his impact.
February 22, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in a ceremony in the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica -- the first such appointments since he was elected pontiff.
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
"The spring evening in which Pope Francis was elected is an apt symbol of the beginning of his papacy and the years that will follow," writes a priest.
March 12, 2014 -- Updated 2010 GMT (0410 HKT)
Take a look at Pope Francis' first year as head of the Roman Catholic Church with our gallery.
November 7, 2013 -- Updated 2343 GMT (0743 HKT)
It was the embrace that melted hearts worldwide.
April 3, 2013 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
Pope Francis kisses and hugs disabled boy lifted up in the crowd on Easter Sunday.
March 16, 2013 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Pope Francis is being painted as a humble and simple man, but his past is complicated and tinged with controversy.
ADVERTISEMENT