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Argentina’s Cardinal Bergoglio Is Elected Pope Francis

(Retrieved from on March 13, 2013)


Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected as the first non-European pope in more than 1,200 years, a surprise choice that reflects the shifting demographics of the Roman Catholic faith as the Vatican seeks to leave behind an era of scandals and intrigue.


Bergoglio, 76, chose the name of Pope Francis for his pontificate and was greeted by thousands of cheering faithful as he stepped out on a balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square to be presented to the world for the first time as pontiff.

“You know that the duty of a conclave is to give a bishop to Rome, but it seems that my brother cardinals went to the end of the world to find one,” the former archbishop of Buenos Aires told a crowd estimated at more than 100,000 who braved a cold rain to greet the new pontiff.

Francis, of Italian descent, inherits from his German predecessor a church that’s been rocked by sex-abuse scandals amid a waning profile in an increasingly secular West. His biggest challenge is to restore the reputation of the millennia- old institution and attract believers to a faith outstripped by Islam in terms of global numbers.

He’s the first pope to come from the Jesuits, the Society of Jesus. The order, founded in the 16th century, breathed new energy into the church after the Protestant Reformation and is famous for its demanding educational and spiritual requirements.

Which Francis?

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi expressed shock that a fellow Jesuit was elected. “Jesuits think of themselves as servants, not authorities,” he told a press briefing.

In another move without precedent, Bergoglio adopted the name of Francis. The name’s associated with one of the church’s most-revered saints, Francis of Assisi, who embraced poverty in 13th-century Italy and is a symbol of humility. It’s also the name of St. Francis Xavier, one of the greatest Jesuit saints and patron saint of missions. A Vatican official, asking not to be named in line with policy, said only Bergoglio can clarify which saint his name refers to.

In his address, Francis asked the crowd in St. Peter’s Square to pray for him “before I offer a blessing to you.” He’s the first pope from the Americas and the first non-European since the death of Syrian Gregory III in 741. He was elected on the fifth ballot on the conclave’s second day.

“Pope Francis is well known as a compassionate pastor of real stature who has served the poor in Latin America, and whose simplicity and holiness of life is remarkable,” Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, said in a statement. “His choice of the name Francis suggests that he wants to call us all back to the transformation that St. Francis knew and brought to the whole of Europe, fired by contemplation and closeness to God.”

‘Devotion to Justice’

Francis may pay a visit to a Rome church today to pray, Lombardi said. The inauguration mass will be on March 19.

Barbara Sabatini, a 22-year-old from Buenos Aires who was among the crowd in St. Peter’s Square, said his election was a “great” surprise. “We just came here on vacation to see the historic sites and all of a sudden we’re seeing history in the making,” said Sabatini, wearing the blue and white jersey of the Argentine national soccer team.

Bergoglio has only one lung, according to Time magazine, his second one having been removed because of an infection when he was a teenager. Before Easter in 1999, about a year after being named archbishop, he washed the feet of 12 AIDS patients in a Buenos Aires hospital and the following year washed the feet of 12 prison inmates. He’s done the same every year since, with members of different social groupings.

Great Devotion

The name Francis “signifies his papacy will have a great devotion to justice, peace and to the poor,” said Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA, a religious group that works on financial reforms for the poor. “Here’s a guy who’s taken the life of St. Francis seriously” and “gave up his mansion and driver and lives in an apartment in Buenos Aires.”

Still, the new pope has also faced criticism in his homeland for allegedly not condemning strongly enough murders committed by Argentina’s military dictatorship more than 30 years ago. He later sought public forgiveness for the church’s inaction, according to the Associated Press.

Bergoglio reportedly came close to becoming pope during the last conclave in 2005. He got the second-highest vote total before bowing out of the running as Benedict XVI was elected, Italian newswire Ansa said yesterday.

Bergoglio was seen as a long shot, with 25-to-1 odds of becoming pope, according to betting company William Hill Plc.

Different Favorites

“To say that this result is a shock, however, is an understatement,” William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly said in an e-mailed comment. “This is a market that has really grabbed the attention of punters around the globe and we saw five different favorites in the short time since Pope Benedict XVI stepped down.”

While he’s held positions in the Curia, the church’s Rome- based bureaucracy, Bergoglio isn’t seen as a Vatican insider. His election came as analysts depicted a struggle in the conclave between mostly Italian cardinals seeking to preserve the status quo and others looking to shake up the curia after last year’s papal leaks scandal.

“The conclave went for a man who’s very deeply holy, not in an ethereal, eccentric way, but being simple and humble,” Christopher Ruddy, professor of history and theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, said in a telephone interview. “This will be a shake-up.”

Internal Probe

Cardinals in pre-conclave talks last week discussed how to improve the work of the Curia in light of last year’s so-called “Vatileaks” case, Lombardi said. Paolo Gabriele, the pope’s former butler, was sentenced by a Vatican court to 18 months in prison for stealing Benedict’s documents. He passed them on to an Italian journalist who wrote a book that depicted a web of Curia intrigue undermining Benedict’s efforts to improve the Holy See’s financial transparency and crack down on sex abuse.

Benedict ordered an internal probe of the case and was handed a dossier last December by investigators. The report detailed alleged corruption and sexual misconduct by prelates that left them vulnerable to blackmail and was a key reason Benedict decided to resign, Italian newspaper La Repubblica and magazine Panorama said last month in unsourced reports that the Vatican dismissed as fantasy.

The dossier “made it possible to detect, given the limitations and imperfections of the human factor in every institution, the generosity and dedication of those who work with uprightness and generosity in the Holy See,” the Vatican said in a statement last month.

Human Factor

Gabriele, later pardoned by Benedict, had indicated that he leaked the documents to protect the pope and expose “evil and corruption” in the Vatican. Benedict became the first pope in 600 years to abdicate when he retired on Feb. 28.

David Clohessy of SNAP, a U.S. group that advocates for victims of priestly sex abuse, said he’s “grateful” Bergoglio doesn’t work in the Curia, according to e-mailed remarks. “We hope that will give him the courage to shake things up and put prevention of abuse and cover-up first on his priority list.”

The new pope will meet with Vatican journalists on March 16 and the following day will hold his first angelus, when the pontiff offers a prayer to the faithful from his window over St. Peter’s Square.

Bergoglio is a fan of the Buenos Aires soccer team San Lorenzo, which was founded by a priest. He angered President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in 2010 when Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriages.

Bergoglio helped organized marches to derail the government-backed proposal, saying it wasn’t “just a political question but intended to destroy God’s plan.”

Happy Combination

“His theology is relatively conservative as they all are, but his stance on social justice is really progressive,” Dean Chester Gillis, professor of theology at Georgetown University, a Jesuit school in Washington, D.C., told Bloomberg Television. “He has been a champion of social justice in Latin America, so I think that is a happy combination for the church.”

One of five children, Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires. His father was an Italian immigrant who worked on the railways. Bergoglio trained as a chemist before being ordained a Jesuit priest in 1969. He taught theology, philosophy and psychology in Buenos Aires before becoming a bishop in 1992. He’s written at least three books on religion.

Almost half the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics live in Latin America and their numbers have increased by more than 50 percent in the past 30 years, compared with growth of 39 percent in the U.S. and 4.9 percent in Europe, according to Vatican statistics compiled by Bloomberg.

St. Francis, the medieval saint famous for his love of animals, “gave so many beautiful things, the gift of poverty in particular was his main thought,” Nicolas Nunez, 26, a Mexican seminarian, said in St. Peter’s Square. “In a world where we have many things we don’t need, I see that as a signal to return to Christ who is our real richness.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeffrey Donovan in Prague at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at



Pope Francis elected as 266th Roman Catholic pontiff

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio takes name of Francis after accepting his election as 266th head of Roman Catholic church

(Retrieved from the Guardian website on March 13, 2013)



The cardinals of the Roman Catholic church on Wednesday chose as their new pope a man from almost "the end of the world" – the first non-European to be elected for almost 1,300 years and the first-ever member of the Jesuit order.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, becomes Pope Francis – the first pontiff to take that name – an early indication perhaps of a reign he hopes will be marked by inspirational preaching and evangelisation.

But the cardinals' choice risked running into immediate controversy over the new pope's role in Argentina's troubled history. In his book, El Silencio, a prominent Argentinian journalist alleged that he connived in the abduction of two Jesuit priests by the military junta in the so-called "dirty war". He denies the accusation.

The new pope appeared on the balcony over the entrance to St Peter's basilica more than an hour after white smoke poured from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel, signalling that the cardinals had made their choice. Dressed in his new white robes, the bespectacled Argentinian prelate looked pensive and perhaps a little intimidated as he looked out at the sea of jubilant humanity in the square.

The former Cardinal Bergoglio was not among the front-runners. But he obtained more votes than any other candidate except former pope Benedict in the 2005 conclave, and – although his election came as a surprise – he was certainly not a rank outsider.

According to some accounts, he was not chosen eight years ago because he begged his fellow cardinals not to continue voting for him. As he uttered his first words – "buona sera" – and the cheering died away, he told the crowd that his peers had been tasked with finding a bishop of Rome. "And it seems that they went almost to the end of the world to find him. But we're here," he said with a smile.

After a prayer for his predecessor, Benedict XVI, the new pope invited the faithful in the square to "pray for the entire world". He added: "I hope that this path for the church will be one fruitful for evangelisation."

Faced with a sharp choice between those cardinals who wanted a thorough shake-up of the Vatican and those who did not, it appeared the electors in the Sistine Chapel opted for compromise. Bergoglio has a reputation for both political canniness and reforming drive. Among the tests facing the 76-year-old will be the awesome managerial demands of the job.

The fumata bianca – the white smoke signal that marks the successful conclusion of a conclave – arrived after five ballots at the end of the second day of voting. The smoke that poured out of the comignolo, the copper and steel tube on the roof of the Sistine Chapel, was greeted with cries of delight and applause from the crowd below. Soon after, the bells of St Peter's rang out, confirming that a new pope had taken over the spiritual leadership of the world's 1.2 billion baptised Catholics.

Inside the Sistine Chapel after the final vote was cast, the most junior of the cardinals, James Harvey, a former prefect of the papal household, called in the secretary of the college of cardinals, Monsignor Lorenzo Baldisseri, and the master of papal liturgical ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, to witness the new pope's acceptance of one of the most daunting jobs on Earth.

The most senior of the electors, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, approached the pope-to-be and – in accordance with tradition – asked him in Latin: "Do you accept your canonical election as supreme pontiff?"

Having obtained his consent, he will have asked: "By what name do you wish to be called?" The master of ceremonies, acting as a notary, will then have summoned two of his staff to act as witnesses, and prepared the document that certifies the new pope's acceptance.

Newly elected popes are taken to be robed in the Room of Tears, its name an indication of the reluctance with which most approach the task. The last holder of the office, Benedict XVI, introduced a change in the ritual that allows the new pope to pray before he is announced to the world.


Benedict abdicated on 28 February, saying that he was no longer able to cope with the burden of his office. He was the first pontiff to resign voluntarily since Celestine V in 1294.The world's Catholics will be looking to his successor to provide not only spiritual inspiration but also firm leadership. The new pope was chosen against a background of turbulence and strife unprecedented in modern times. He takes on the leadership of a church whose faithful have been shocked by a proliferation of clerical sex abuse scandals throughout the rich world and dismayed by events in and around the Vatican.

The day for the 115 cardinal-electors began at about 6.30am local time in the Casa Santa Marta, their simple but comfortable – and highly protected – residence in the walled city state. After breakfast, they made their way to the Apostolic Palace, the home of the popes, for morning mass in the Pauline Chapel. By about 9.30am, they had settled themselves into the Sistine Chapel for prayers and the resumption of voting.

Benedict's startling decision to resign came after years of mounting tension and discreet but venomous infighting in the Roman Curia, the central administration of the Catholic church. Last year, some of the pope's correspondence, pointing to bitter rivalries and maladministration – or worse – in the Vatican was published in book form.

Benedict's butler, Paolo Gabriele, was tried and imprisoned for leaking the documents, but the journalist to whom the papers were passed has said that his source was part of a much broader network of disaffected Vatican employees and officials. Gabriele's arrest coincided with a renewed controversy over the Vatican bank, whose chairman was summarily dismissed last May.

The scandals – and a string of controversies over the pope's own declarations – distracted attention from what was expected to be the central theme of his papacy. Benedict came to the leadership of the Catholic church as the pope who would begin the process of re-evangelising an increasingly secular western world.

That too will be an important challenge for his successor. In the approach to the conclave several cardinals said they wanted a great pastor for the world's biggest Christian denomination.

No indication of how or why the new pope was chosen was expected to emerge. On Tuesday, before the start of the conclave, the cardinal-electors took an oath of secrecy, as had those Vatican employees and officials involved in the election.

Additional precautions included a sweep of the Sistine Chapel to ensure that no listening devices had been planted inside and the use of electronic jamming techniques.



Cardinals Pick Bergoglio, Who Will Be Pope Francis

(Retrieved from New York Times on March 13, 2013)

VATICAN CITY — With a puff of white smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel and to the cheers of thousands of rain-soaked faithful, a gathering of Catholic cardinals picked a new pope from among their midst on Wednesday — choosing the cardinal from Argentina, the first South American to lead the church.

The new pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (pronounced Ber-GOAL-io), will be called Francis, the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. He is also the first non-European pope in more than 1,200 years and the first member of the Jesuit order to lead the church.
In choosing Francis, 76, who had been the archbishop of Buenos Aires, the cardinals sent a powerful message that the future of the church lies in the global south, home to the bulk of the world’s Catholics.
“I would like to thank you for your embrace,” the new pope, dressed in white, said from the white balcony on St. Peter’s Basilica as thousands cheered joyously below. “My brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am.”
Speaking in Italian as he blessed the faithful, Francis asked the audience to “pray for me, and we’ll see each other soon.”

“Good night, and have a good rest,” he concluded, in a grandfatherly, almost casual tone.

“Habemus papam!” members of the crowd shouted in Latin, waving umbrellas and flags. “We have a pope!” Others cried, “Viva il Papa!”

“It was like waiting for the birth of a baby, only better,” said a Roman man, Giuliano Uncini. A child sitting atop his father’s shoulders waved a crucifix.

Francis is known as a humble man who spoke out for the poor and led an austere life in Buenos Aires. He was born to Italian immigrant parents and was raised in the Argentine capital.

The new pope inherits a church wrestling with an array of challenges that intensified during his predecessor, Benedict XVI, including a shortage of priests, growing competition from evangelical churches in the Southern Hemisphere, a sexual abuse crisis that has undermined the church’s moral authority in the West and difficulties governing the Vatican itself.

Benedict abruptly ended his troubled eight-year papacy last month, announcing he was no longer up to the rigors of the job. He became the first pontiff in 598 years to resign. The 115 cardinals who are younger than 80 and eligible to vote chose their new leader after two days of voting.

Pope Francis spoke by telephone with Benedict on Wednesday evening, said a Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi. He called it “an act of great significance and pastorality” that Francis’ first act as pope was to offer a prayer for his predecessor.

The Rev. Thomas Rosica of Canada, another Vatican spokesman, recalled meeting Cardinal Bergoglio a decade ago during preparations for World Youth Day in Canada, and said the cardinal had told him that he lived very simply, in an apartment Buenos Aires, and sold the archdiocese’s mansion.

“He cooks for himself and took great pride in telling us that, and that he took the bus to work” rather than riding in a car, Father Rosica said.

President Obama was among the first world leaders to congratulate Francis in a message that emphasized the pope’s humble roots and New World background.

“As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than 2,000 years — that in each other we see the face of God,” Mr. Obama said in a message released by the White House.

“As the first pope from the Americas,” the president added, “his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day.”

A doctrinal conservative, Francis has opposed liberation theology, abortion, gay marriage and the ordination of women, standing with his predecessor in holding largely traditional views.

As archbishop of Buenos Aires beginning in 1998 and a cardinal since 2001, he frequently tangled with Argentina’s governments over social issues. In 2010, for example, he castigated a government-supported law to legalize marriage and adoption by same-sex couples as “a war against God.”

He has been less energetic, however, in urging the Argentine church to examine its own behavior during the 1970s, when the country was consumed by a conflict between right and left. In what became known as the Dirty War, as many as 30,000 people were disappeared, tortured or killed by a military dictatorship that seized power in March 1976.

In a long interview with an Argentine newspaper in 2010, Cardinal Bergoglio defended his behavior during the dictatorship. He said that he had helped hide people being sought for arrest or disappearance by the military because of their political views, had helped others leave Argentina and had lobbied the country’s military rulers directly for the release and protection of others.

Before beginning the voting by secret ballot in the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday, in a cloistered meeting known as a conclave, the cardinals swore an oath of secrecy in Latin, a rite designed to protect deliberations from outside scrutiny — and to protect cardinals from earthly influence as they seek divine guidance.

The conclave followed more than a week of intense, broader discussions among the world’s cardinals about the problems facing the church and their criteria for its next leader.

“We spoke among ourselves in an exceptional and free way, with great truth, about the lights but also about shadows in the current situation of the Catholic Church,” Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, a theologian known for his intellect and his pastoral touch, told reporters this week.

“The pope’s election is something substantially different from a political election,” Cardinal Schönborn said, adding that the role was not “the chief executive of a multinational company, but the spiritual head of a community of believers.”

Indeed, Benedict was selected in 2005 as a caretaker after the momentous papacy of John Paul II, but the shy theologian appeared to show little inclination toward management. His papacy suffered from crises of communications — with Muslims, Jews and Anglicans — that, along with a sex abuse crisis that raged back to life in Europe in 2010, evolved into a crisis of governance.

Critics of Benedict’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said he had difficulties in running the Vatican and appeared more interested in the Vatican’s ties to Italy than to the rest of the world. The Vatican is deeply concerned about the fate of Christians in the war-torn Middle East.

The new pope will also inherit power struggles over the management of the Vatican bank, which must continue a process of meeting international transparency standards or risk being shut out of the mainstream international banking system. In one of his final acts as pope, Benedict appointed a German aristocrat, Ernst von Freyberg, as the bank’s new president.

Francis will have to help make the Vatican bureaucracy — often seen as a hornet’s nest of infighting Italians — work more efficiently for the good of the church. After years in which Benedict and John Paul helped consolidate more power at the top, many liberal Catholics also hope that the new pope will give local bishops’ conferences more decision-making power to help respond to the needs of the faithful.

The reform of the Roman Curia, which runs the Vatican, “is not conceptually hard,” said Alberto Melloni, the author of numerous books on the Vatican and the Second Vatican Council. “it’s hard on a political front, but it will take five minutes for someone who has the strength. You get rid of the spoil system, and that’s it.”

The hard things are “if you want a permanent consultation of bishops’ conferences,” he added.

For Mr. Melloni, foreign policy and the church’s vision of Asia would be crucial to the new pope. “If Roman Catholicism was capable of learning Greek while it was speaking Aramaic, of learning Celtic while it was speaking Latin, now it either has to learn Chinese or ‘ciao,'” he said, using the Italian world for “goodbye.”

Ahead of the election, cardinals said they were looking for “a pope that understands the problems of the church at present” and who is strong enough to tackle them, said Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the archbishop emeritus of Prague, who participated in the general congregations but was not eligible to vote in a conclave.

He said those problems included reforming the Roman Curia, handling the sex abuse crisis and cleaning up the Vatican bank.

“He needs to be capable of solving these issues,” Cardinal Vlk said as he walked near the Vatican this week, adding that the next pope needs “to be open to the world, to the troubles of the world, to society, because evangelization is a primary task, to bring the Gospel to people.”

The sexual abuse crisis remains a troubling issue for the church, especially in English-speaking countries where victims sued dioceses found to have moved around abusive priests.

On Wednesday, news reports in California showed that one cardinal elector, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, the former archbishop of Los Angeles; the archdiocese; and a former priest had reached a settlement of almost $10 million in four child sex abuse cases, according to the victims’ lawyers.

Becoming pope also has a human dimension. In one of his final speeches as pope before he retired on Feb. 18, Benedict said his successor would need to be prepared to lose some of his privacy.



First Latin American pope 'very exciting,' faithful say

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 10:26 PM EDT, Wed March 13, 2013


(Retrieved from CNN on March 13, 2013)

(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."

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."

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."

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.

"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."

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

"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."

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 in Atlanta, 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.