North Texans React to New Pope

The head of the Diocese of Dallas, which represents more than 1.2 million Catholics, calls the election of a new pope "a great day."

Argentine Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope Wednesday and chose the papal name Pope Francis, becoming first pontiff from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium.

"What a great day this is," Bishop Kevin J. Farrell said. "I will tell you, there's excitement all over the world, and especially in the Catholic Church. I don't know [if] any of you saw it on television, but the number of people who packed St. Peter's Square tonight was incredible."

"I think the Holy Spirit picks good men to lead the church," said Monsignor Stephen Berg, the administrator of the Diocese of Fort Worth. "But to tell you the truth, we have just begun our research on him. We're looking into, you know, trying to get to know him now and we're looking forward to seeing how this unfolds."

The Diocese of Dallas is made up of 1.2 million people across nine counties. The Diocese of Fort Worth has about 760,000 parishioners encompassing its 28 counties.

A stunned-looking Bergoglio shyly waved to the crowd of tens of thousands of people who gathered in St. Peter's Square.

"I can tell you that his reputation is one of being a humble, simple priest, who looks -- when you see him on television, giving the blessing tonight from the balcony at St. Peter's -- an awful lot like Pope John XXIII," said Farrell. "He's a very humble priest who has worked tirelessly for the good of the poor in Latin America. That has been his characteristic all his life as a priest and as a bishop."

He asked for prayers for himself, and for retired Pope Benedict XVI, whose stunning resignation paved the way for the tumultuous conclave that brought the first Jesuit to the papacy. The cardinal electors overcame deep divisions to select the 266th pontiff in a remarkably fast conclave.

After announcing "Habemus Papum" -- "We have a pope!" -- a cardinal standing on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica on Wednesday revealed the identity of the new pontiff, using his Latin name.

The 76-year-old archbishop of Buenos Aires, the son of middle-class Italian immigrants, has spent nearly his entire career at home in Argentina, overseeing churches and shoe-leather priests.

"I think it is significant that he is from Latin America, very significant," said Farrell. "After all, the majority of the Catholics of the world come from this continent."

University of Dallas students who are studying abroad in Rome this semester were at St. Peters Square when Francis first greeted the crowd.

"There is just so many feelings going through my head right now," Alex Taylor said. "It's just crazy to be here. I was really hoping that it would really happen tonight, because I'm leaving for spring break tomorrow, so I wouldn't be in Rome."

Taylor and his classmates have been going to the square religiously, anticipating the big announcement in midst of studying for their midterms.

"We got people from Africa, Asia, South America and just seeing the whole world come together in St. Peter's Square," Sally Krutzig said.

Bergoglio had reportedly finished second in the 2005 conclave that produced Benedict -- who last month became the first pope to resign in 600 years.

Elected on the fifth ballot, Francis was chosen in one of the fastest conclaves in years, remarkable given there was no clear front-runner going into the vote and that the church had been in turmoil following the upheaval unleashed by Pope Benedict XVI's surprise resignation.

A winner must receive 77 votes, or two-thirds of the 115, to be named pope.

For comparison's sake, Benedict was elected on the fourth ballot in 2005 -- but he was the clear front-runner going into the vote. Pope John Paul II was elected on the eighth ballot in 1978 to become the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

NBC 5's Christine Lee and Scott Gordon contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us