Catholics Around The World React To Announcement Of New Pope

We have reaction from around the world to the selection of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, as pope.

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Across the world, there are more than one billion Catholics, and we're going to hear some worldwide reaction now to the new pope. We'll hear from France and Senegal, but first, NPR's Carrie Kahn in Guatemala City.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Immediately after the papal announcement, firecrackers went off in parts of this Central American capital. At the downtown cathedral in Guatemala City, people started gathering, hoping to enter the centuries-old church. Abraham Borrya ran down to the cathedral to give thanks to God that the cardinals picked a new pope.

ABRAHAM BORRYA: (Foreign language spoken)

KAHN: Borrya says it's great that there's a new pope in time for Holy Week, but the most important thing is that they picked a Latino. And he added, yay, we won. Regular programming throughout Latin America was interrupted with the announcement of the new pope, Francisco Uno, as he's called here in Latin America. Guatemala's president went to the airwaves immediately after the announcement and could not contain his excitement. He says he hopes the new pope comes quickly to Latin America, and he hopes to be one of the first heads of states to welcome him.

One worshipper said that it was really important for a Latin American to be picked because, usually, all the orders to the church come from Europe toward Latin America, and now, it will be the reverse. A Guatemalan priest added that finally, there will be someone who speaks Spanish, understands the culture and doesn't need to have our jokes and idiomatic phrases interpreted. He also said that a Latin American pope will give new energy and hope to the church in countries like Guatemala where the people are suffering from poverty, high-crime rates and the ravages of drug trafficking.

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OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: This is Ofeibea Quist-Arcton in Dakar, Senegal. Around the world, Catholicism is growing fastest in Africa, and many Catholics here were hoping the next pope would come from the continent. Nonetheless, here in Dakar, reaction was generally positive.

LAURENCE MARECHAL: I am Laurence Marechal from Senegal, and I'm Catholic too.

QUIST-ARCTON: Were you hoping for an African pope?

MARECHAL: No, no, no. I was sure that we will not have this time African pope.

QUIST-ARCTON: Why?

MARECHAL: Because it's too early perhaps for the mentality of the people who are voting. I expect this pope will be more efficient, especially for the developing countries, because I think the choice was very political, because he's from South America but also from Europe.

QUIST-ARCTON: Pope Francis I, in the simple style of Francis of Assisi, is likely to have the support of African Catholics. The fact that he struck a humble and quietly-spoken presence, blessing the assembled crowd at St. Peter's Square and asking them to pray for him is a gesture that's going down well in Africa.

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ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris, where the French, though not very religious, have been religiously following the election of a new pope.

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BEARDSLEY: French news stations broadcast live the first appearance of the man known here as Pope Francois.

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BEARDSLEY: France is often referred to as the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church. Clovis, who was considered the first French king, converted from paganism to Christianity in 496. During the 14th century, the seat of the pope was not in Rome but in Avignon, France, from where seven popes presided. While 88 percent of the French are said to be Catholic, the number of practicing Catholics has never been lower. French Catholics came out in force against gay marriage this year, but many say they are hoping for a pope who will modernize the church. Sixty-year-old Marie Therese Geminaux(ph), who watched tonight's proceedings from her apartment, says she hopes the pope will fight poverty.

MARIE THERESE GEMINAUX: (Foreign language spoken)

BEARDSLEY: Maybe because he comes from a poor country in South America, he'll really be able to help the world, she says. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

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