VATICAN CITY (CBS) – Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina has been chosen as the new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, taking the name Pope Francis.
It is the first time in history that the church as gone outside the Old World to select a New World leader, and he is the first pope from the Americas. Latin America comprises about 40 percent of the world’s Catholics.
The choice of a non-European, a man who is also from outside the inner circle of the Vatican, could signal a significant change, experts said.
Bergoglio is a Jesuit, an order which has strong ties in Chicago, including Loyola University as well as Holy Family Church, 1080 W. Roosevelt Rd. and St. Ignatius College Prep school next door.
Father Greg Sakowicz, pastor of Saint Mary’s Church in Evanston, noted the symbolic importance of the pope’s name selection.
“Historically, St. Francis of Assisi is about humility, gentleness and a profound faith in God,” he said. “It’s also about simplicity.’
Bergoglio had reportedly finished second in the 2005 conclave that produced Pope Benedict – who last month became the first pope to resign in 600 years. The 76-year-old archbishop of Buenos Aires has spent nearly his entire career at home in Argentina.
White smoke has appeared from the chimney over the Sistine Chapel, the signal that the Roman Catholic Church had a new pope, at 1:06 p.m. Chicago time on Wednesday. Bells rang through St. Peter’s Square.
The new pope appeared on the Vatican balcony overlooking the square about an hour after the smoke billowed. A crowd of thousands of people waiting in the rain to see him cheered wildly.
“I thank you for this greeting you give me,” Francis told thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
“Let us pray always, not just for ourselves, but for others and everyone in the world because there is a great brotherhood among us,” Francis said.
Holy Name Cathedral held a Mass Of Thanksgiving for the new pope at 5:15 p.m.
Catholics outside Holy Name Cathedral reacted to the new pope from South America.
“I am crying just tears of joy. It is just earthshaking to me,” said Stephanie Ketzler.
Some Chicago Catholics were concerned about the challenges that the new pope will face.
“Problems with sexual abuse have to be addressed more explicitly and forcefully than they have in the past,” said David Connolly.
CBS News papal consultant Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo said Bergoglio “did not want to be pope,” adding that Bergoglio’s selection is an “incredibly courageous choice.”
The longtime archbishop of Buenos Aires is the son of middle-class Italian immigrants and is known as a humble man who denied himself the luxuries that previous Buenos Aires cardinals enjoyed.
He often rode the bus to work, cooked his own meals and regularly visited the slums that ring Argentina’s capital. He considers social outreach, rather than doctrinal battles, to be the essential business of the church.
After appearing in public, Pope Francis joined Chicago’s Francis George, and the 113 other cardinals for a celebratory dinner.
The selection of Pope Francis as pope clearly had a deep emotional impact on the pastor of Saint Pius church at 1919 S. Ashland.
A happy ripple of applause rose from 12 parishioners glued to first appearance of the new pope as Father Brendan Curran explained the significance of a South American prelate.
“Because it reminds me of the church that I’ve been so excited about in being a part of here on the Near West Side of Chicago where we have families from all over Latin America is a sense of pride and dignity to see the pope being named being a person directly from that experience as the new shepherd of the church,” said Fr. Curran.
Contributing: The Associated Press