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Upon News Of Argentine Pope, Latin Americans Are Overjoyed

Faithful react after the announcement that Buenos Aires archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope Francis I, at Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires on Wednesday.
Juan Mabromata
AFP/Getty Images
Faithful react after the announcement that Buenos Aires archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope Francis I, at Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires on Wednesday.

Pope Francis goes into history as the first pontiff from the New World.

For Latin America in particular, this is a momentous occasion: It is home to 483 million Catholics, or a little more than 40 percent of the global population.

Pope Francis was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, of Italian parents. At one point, he was the archbishop of the Buenos Aires diocese, which The Wall Street Journal reports, has "the largest concentration of Catholics in the world."

Perhaps no one expressed the feelings of Latin America better than the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa.

"We have a Latin American pope! We are living historic moments without precedent," he tweeted in Spanish. "Que Viva Francisco I!"

Vatican TV reported that churches across Buenos Aires were ringing their bells. The AP reports that on the streets, cars beeped their horns.

The AP adds:

" 'It's incredible!' said Martha Ruiz, 60, who was weeping tears of emotion after learning that the cardinal she knew as Jorge Mario Bergoglio will now be Pope Francis.

"She said she had been in many meetings with the cardinal and said, 'He is a man who transmits great serenity.' "

Gabriela Michetti, whom Argentina's El Clarin calls a confidant of Jorge Bergoglio, as the pope was known, was overjoyed.

"I cannot believe it. I cannot believe it," she told the paper. "I can't talk. Let me enjoy this."

The paper reports that in the background, the reporter could hear "screams of euphoria."

This a breaking news story. We'll update as we receive reaction.

Update at 7:15 p.m. ET. Headlines From Around Latin America:

We'll leave you with headlines and highlights from the coverage from around Latin America:

-- Peru's El Comercio points out that his election comes just as Latin America celebrates 200 years of independence from European countries.

"They have chosen a pope who will probably start a new evangelization — this time it will be from Latin America to Europe."

-- One organization that is especially happy: The fútbol club San Lorenzo de Almagro, which tweeted Bergoglio's membership card.

-- La Nación collects the new pope's "most controversial" moments. Here's one the controversial quotes:

"We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least," Bergoglio said during a gathering of Latin American bishops in 2007. "The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers."

-- El Clarin talks to Pope Francis' former spokesman.

"He is unimpeachable," Guillermo Marcó tells the paper. "In his private life he is simple and austere. He wakes up everyday at 5:30 to pray. Despite the options he has as cardinal, he has continued to lead a normal life."

Update at 6:15 p.m. ET. Maradona Wants An Audience:

Argentina's La Nación reports that soccer star Diego Maradona said he was happy about the election.

"As soon as I make it to Italy, I hope to have an audience with him," Maradona said.

In separate news, the paper reports that Venezuela's acting president, Nicolas Maduro, said the late leader Hugo Chávez had made Bergoglio's selection possible.

"We know that our commander ascended to heaven and is front of Christ," Maduro said. "He influenced something, a new hand arrived and Christ told him: It's time for South America. That's what I think."

Update at 5:51 p.m. ET. 'A Great Surprise':

Gabriel Castelli, the president of the commission on justice and peace of Argentinian Conference of Catholic Bishops, told us that there was "much happiness and surprise" about Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio's election.

He said that Bergoglio is known in Argentina as a very humble person.

"While he was cardinal, he always used metro," he said.

Castelli said that for Argentina, this will bring more visibility and an emphasis on closing the "level of inequality" in the world.

Update at 5:25 p.m. ET. An Ovation For The Pope:

The AFP reports that, upon learning that Jorge Bergoglio had been named pope, Catholic worshipers at the Metropolitan Cathedral In Buenos Aires gave a "rousing standing ovation."

The wire service adds:

"Crowds of people and mobile television crews rushed to the area outside the cathedral where the new pontiff used to give mass as Archbishop of Buenos Aires and primate of Argentina.

" 'I am surprised; I did not think they would elect Bergoglio. He is the first Latin American pope and that is going to be a huge plus for the region,' said Gaston Hall, 37, a publicist who described himself as a practicing Catholic."

Update at 4:45 p.m. ET. A Fruitful Task:

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner sent a letter to Pope Francis.

"In my name, in the name of the Argentinean government and in representation of the people of our country, I want to express my congratulations," she wrote. "It's our wish that as you begin your work and guide the church, you have a fruitful pastoral task ..."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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