In a speedy conclave, Catholic cardinals on Wednesday elected Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina as the first Jesuit pope and the first from the Americas.
Bergoglio, 76, is the 266th pontiff and took the name Pope Francis. Francis replaces Pope Benedict XVI, who last month became the first pope to resign in 600 years.
“We are excited to have new leadership,” said the Rev. Tim Thompson of Denton’s Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. “We have someone from Latin American who has the Latin culture as part of his heritage and mind-set, and that will have a great influence in the direction he will take the church.”
Thompson said Bergoglio’s name came up during the 2005 conclave that elected Benedict.
“I was shocked by the announcement,” Thompson said, but “everything I had heard about him is encouraging; [he] sounds very genuine.”
Deacon Emilio “Popo” Gonzalez of Immaculate Conception said he followed the conclave for three days, awaiting the announcement.
“Being Latino, I am overwhelmed,” Gonzalez said. “I am extremely happy.”
Gonzalez said the name Francis is popular among many religious affiliations.
Isabella Hinojosa, a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens Council 4366, said the name associates the pope with St. Francis of Assisi, a well-known religious figure known for his humility and for helping the poor.
“[Pope Francis] is the first Jesuit and first from the Americas and the first Latino. I am humbled. He is a man chosen through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the inspired choice of the College of Cardinals,” Hinojosa said.
Thompson said the pope’s background with the Jesuit order will influence the direction he will take the church.
“This is significant because every order had certain emphasis and sprit,” Thompson said. “The pope will have advisers whom he is going to listen to, and they are going to be mostly Jesuits.”
French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran announced the name of the new pope in Latin. The announcement came about an hour after white smoke appeared from the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, where 115 cardinal electors met to select the new pontiff.
After Pope Francis was presented, he addressed the faithful, first asking for a prayer for Benedict and then giving his first remarks as leader of the church.
“You know that the work of the conclave is to give a bishop to Rome,” Francis said. “It seems as if my brother cardinals went to find him from the end of the Earth, but here we are. Thank you for the welcome.”
Francis is the son of Italian immigrants — Regina, a housewife, and Mario, a railway employee, — according to La Nación, an Argentine newspaper. Bergoglio was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 1969.
He became archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998. Now he will lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
Bergoglio was not among the top 15 names considered to be frontrunners for the papacy.
“I think he was in shock,” Hinojosa said. “After you are named, you go into the Room of Tears. I bet he had a lot of tears, and it may have been overwhelming.”
In a statement, Monsignor Stephen Berg, administrator of the Diocese of Fort Worth, gave thanks for the selection of the new pontiff.
“The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth is committed to the New Evangelization, as we are blessed to live in Texas, where Catholicism is growing,” Berg wrote. “We look forward to the day when Pope Francis will name a new bishop to shepherd our diocese and to lead us on the path to holiness.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .