(Cordova) – The Vatican flag hangs from Maria Jose Nieto’s Cordova home where she watched the white smoke billow from the Vatican on her TV.
“I just couldn’t believe it I was just so excited,” she said.
76-year-old Jorge Bergoglio, served as the archbishop of Nieto’s hometown, Buenos Aires.
She didn’t know him personally, but said he was regarded highly and is thrilled he’s the new pontiff.
“I always heard that he was a very humble person. He never had a body guard never used a private car, always rode the subway,” she said.
He was also known for helping the needy.
“He’s a very scholarly man with a commitment to the poor,” Father Tim Sullivan of St. Patrick’s Church said.
Father Tim said it is fitting that Bergaglio is the first pope to choose the name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi.
“You think of St. Francis as someone who loved God’s creation, who had a real commitment to the poor, who was often associated with giving himself fully to those around him who had less. I think this brings hope to the world that he will be committed to living out the vision of Saint Francis.”
Father Tim believes that includes a vision of reforming the church.
“I think to move the church beyond the scandal to know we are in need of reform individually and as a church that he will have a deep sense of bringing the church into its rightful place in terms of a moral leader and one who is committed to helping all people.”
Pope Francis is also expected to re-energize the more than 1 billion Catholics in Latin America.
“Here’s somebody from a poor part of Latin America and someone that presents hope for the future,” Father Tim said.
Nieto and her husband believe the cardinals sent a strong message about where the future of the church may lie.
“I think it’s going to energize those people to go back to more active participation in the church and social issues having one of their own as pope,” Alex Dopico said.
Earlier Wednesday Bishop Terry Steib, with the Diocese of Memphis, issued a statement about the selection of the new pope. He said, “All of us from the Catholic Diocese of Memphis in Tennessee congratulate our new pontiff, Pope Francis, and pledge our support and allegiance. His election was a surprise – a pleasant surprise. The fact that he is a religious who took the name Francis speaks to his humility. His choice of name also speaks well of how he plans to guide the church in focusing on the needs of strengthening and evangelizing the universal Church. What a blessing it is that Argentina has given the Church its first pope from the new world. We pray for Pope Francis that he will be guided by the Holy Spirit in service to the Church.”