The Catholic Church has a new Pope now that the conclave of Catholic leaders have cast their ballots for Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit from Argentina.
Pope Benedict XVI stepped down from his position Feb. 28, citing failing strength of “mind and body." The new Pope has taken on the name Francis.
Bells rang out at Blessed Sacrament Church on W. Braddock Road when news broke Wednesday afernoon of white smoke appearing above the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, the signal a selection had been made.
Father Daniel Gee from St. Rita Catholic Church in Arlandria announced the news to students at the church’s school over a loudspeaker.
“They gave a big cheer,” he said. “They all leave at 3:15 and they missed him coming out on the balcony. We had televisions set up for them to watch.”
Gee said his parish is “very excited” about the selection.
“He’s a great guy,” Gee said. “He’s a Jesuit, totally faithful to the church and very humble. He lives in an apartment and cooks in his own meals. He’s absolutely the type of guy you want to follow.”
Pope Francis, 76, was created a cardinal by Pope John Paull II and is known for riding the bus and championing the poor, according to The Guardian.
The Guardian reports that as cardinal, Bergoglio took a stance against gay marriage, but supported the use of contraception to prevent disease.
"Let us thank God for the election of our new Holy Father, Pope Francis," said Father Donald Fest of St. Joseph's in Old Town Alexandria. "May the Holy Spirit be with him every day as he leads the Church as the 'Servant of the servants of Christ.' It is our responsibility to pray for him every day as he fulfills his role as the 266th Successor of Saint Peter. Ad multos annos."
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 18.8 percent of Alexandria residents indentified themselves as Catholic adherents in 2000. That percentage dropped to 13.3 percent in 2010 as the number of Catholics in Alexandria declined but the overall population increased.
Gee anticipated the Latin American members of his church would be enthusiastic about the selection of an Argentine.
“They’ll be very crazy,” he said. “Even though there aren’t many from Argentina—they are mostly from El Salvador and Honduras here—they consider themselves all as one.”
Editor Sharon McLoone contributed to this report.
What's your reaction to the news? What would you like to see from Pope Francis and the Catholic Church?