Southern California Catholics: It's 'An Exciting Change' - FOX 35 News Orlando

Southern California Catholics: It's 'An Exciting Change'

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Los Angeles, CA -

At Catholic masses all over Los Angeles, there was celebration as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina officially became Pope Francis.

"It is a beautiful sign to have a new pope who is the first pope from the Americas, from the New World," LA's Archbishop Jose Gomez told the faithful at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Latinos make up 70% of the archdiocese so it's not surprising to see people cheering at Olvera Street, where you could hear "viva el papa."

But even a group of music students from the Big Bear Lake Arrowhead area -- Catholics but not Latinos -- were thrilled.

"Makes me feel closer to him, somehow" said a fifteen year old from the group, knowing he is from this part of the world.

"It doesn't matter ... he is our spiritual leader, and I am just glad this is a new beginning," said a 20-year-old native Angeleno.

Meanwhile, 53-year-old Rosin Chrisman said as she left a midday Mass at the cathedral, "I hope it will be a nice change, an exciting change." She said the new pope will be tasked with "keeping up with the new changes ... the way that society is moving."

Another parishioner, 26-year-old Chris De La Cruz, said as he entered the cathedral that he hopes the new pope will be "someone who is open-minded to the 21st Century."

The new pontiff, the 266th leader of the Catholic Church, takes over for Pope Benedict XVI, who retired due to health reasons at the end of February. He was the first pope in 600 years to resign. Bergoglio, 76, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, took the name Pope Francis I.

Archbishop Gomez called the new pontiff "a defender of the poor, a strong teacher and a leader committed to renewal in the church." He called the selection a "great day for the church and for the world."

"For us as Catholics, this is a beautiful, spiritual moment, a time of joy and thanksgiving, a time of prayer for the whole church," he said. "It is a great day not only for Catholics but for the whole world, because the pope is a leading sign of the universality of God's church. And the pope is a sign of Jesus Christ's love for the world and for every person in every nation."

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels hosted an all-night prayer vigil Monday night before the conclave of cardinals began the papal-selection process at the Vatican.

In Orange County, Father Christian Mondor, a Franciscan priest of St. Simon and Jude church in Huntington Beach, said he was "really delighted" the new pontiff took his name from St. Francis of Assisi.

"He has a great interest in the needs of the poor, just as Francis of Assisi did," Mondor said, referring to the modest lifestyle of the pope who lived in an apartment and took public transportation to work as a cardinal. "I was delighted to hear that he took the ordinary local transportation to his office in Argentina."

Pope Francis is also known as a scholar, continuing the tradition of Jesuit priests, Mondor said.

"It's a wonderful thing to have someone so highly educated and a teacher," Mondor said. "He's very much a scholar and theologian and yet very down to earth and with the people."

Mondor was also struck with the way the new pope addressed the throngs outside the Vatican, particularly when he asked the faithful to pray for him.

"It was a beautiful gesture of humility and a recognition that he will need prayer," Mondor said.

Mondor said Pope Francis also appears to be much like Pope John Paul II and noted the two were close friends. The new pope also reminded the Franciscan priest of Pope John, who presided over sweeping reform of the church with Vatican II.

"He seems to have some of the qualities that so endeared John the 23rd to everyone," Mondor said. "This is certainly a sign that we may have another very inspiring pope."

The selection of a pontiff from Latin America was a "great move away from Europe, a very healthy move," Mondor said. "We had hope it would be someone from Canada or the United States, some of us anyway, but coming from Latin America is highly significant. ... It's also a statement of the global nature of the Catholic church."

--CNS Contributed to this report

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