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Crossroads residents react to 1st New World pope

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
March 13, 2013 at 10 p.m.
Updated March 13, 2013 at 10:14 p.m.

Pope Francis speaks from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of  Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, of Argentina, was elected pope Wednesday afternoon, choosing to carry the name of St. Francis, the patron saint of peace and poverty, a Vatican spokesperson said.

Pope Francis, 76, the son of an Italian immigrant and the papacy's first-ever Argentinian and Jesuit, will govern approximately 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide.

"I was pleasantly surprised," said the Most Rev. Bishop David E. Fellhauer, of the Diocese of Victoria. "From what I continue to hear, he seems to be a humble person, very simple and someone who stands up for what he believes in."

Francis is the 265th successor of Peter and the first non-European pope in more than 1,000 years.

He was elevated Wednesday, two weeks after Benedict XVI - the first pope to resign in 598 years - stepped down.

Fellhauer acknowledged the historical aspect of the College of Cardinals electing the first South American pontiff, stating the decision to elect a Latin pope may help unite the church worldwide.

"It may bring encouragement to the people of Latin America," the bishop said.

The Rev. Stan DeBoe, of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, agreed with Fellhauer, adding the pope's humble roots may help him reach out to the Catholic and non-Catholic world and inspire Catholics in lower socioeconomic classes.

He also said he is pleased to see the new pope is a smiling man.

"All I said was, 'Give us a man who smiles," DeBoe said. "When I saw him come out and give us a smile, I thought 'This is the man.'"

The Rev. Patrick Knippenberg, of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Victoria, also said he was more than satisfied with the election results.

"It shows the universality of the church, and the word Catholic means universal," Knippenberg said, mentioning the Catholic church's 42 percent Hispanic membership. "It shows the Holy Father isn't necessarily European and that he can be from the Americas."

Knippenberg said he was surprised Pope Francis wasn't a younger man but remains confident the new pontiff will govern accordingly.

"He looks very young to me in a way, and he looks like a man who is humble and caring," Knippenberg said.

But Catholics aren't the only ones to voice an opinion of the new pope.

The Rev. Mike Hurt, of Parkway Church, said Christians everywhere are paying attention.

"I think the newsworthiness of this shows that people really do care, and even if they don't affiliate with the Catholic church, his role is still relevant.

Hurt also said he was pleased to see a pope elected from the Third World.

"It shows how God is working in South and Central America, so there's no surprise to see that a pope is chosen from where God is moving the most," Hurt said. "The Third World just became a power broker."

Related stories:


Analysis: Pope captivates crowds with humble tone of first words


First Argentinian pope elected to lead 1.2 billion Catholics



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