Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez celebrated Mass with the faithful Wednesday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels as a cheering crowd in St. Peter's Square greeted a new pope.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected pope Wednesday during the second day of the closed-door Vatican conclave. Bergoglio -- a 76-year-old who will take the name Francis I -- spoke to the roaring crowd from a balcony above the square.
After white smoke billowed from the Sistine Chapel to indicate a pope had been elected, bells tolled at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels -- site of an all-night prayer vigil Monday before the conclave of cardinals began the papal-selection process at the Vatican.
Gomez asked those in attendance at a mid-day Mass Wednesday to pray for the new pope, a Spanish speaker and the first pontiff from Latin America.
"It was a very pleasant surprise to see that the majority world is now represented," said Juan Martinez, of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. "The reality is that half of all Catholics in the world are from Latin America. To have a pope from Latin America is a recognition of the reality that the growth of the church is in the south."
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is home to the LA Archdiocese's nearly 5 million members, some of whom passed under white-and-gold decorations Wednesday adorning the entrance. Latinos comprise an estimated 70 percent of Los Angeles Archdiocese members.
Gomez opened the Mass by announcing a new pope had been elected, but did not identify him by name until later in the service, when the name was confirmed.
"It is a time for all of us to grow in our faith," Archbishop Gomez told those gathered in the cathedral in downtown Los Angeles. "This is, as we know, the first time in history that a pope comes form the American continent. That really shows the importance of all of us in this continent as part of the church."
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Bergoglio, the Buenos Aires-born son of Italian immigrants, is a Jesuit who spent much of his career in Argentina. He gained a reputation as a leader who avoided the perks of high office, residing in a small apartment and riding a bus as archbishop in Buenos Aires.
He was a priest during Argentina's military junta.
"The reality of living amongst the poor and those who suffered in the majority world gives him a very different perspective from the previous pope," Martinez said. "It is an experience that is more common among the majority of Catholics."
That experience will likely influence how "Francisco Primero" addresses issues that confront the Catholic Church, Martinez added. The new pope is considered conservative on social issues, but Martinez said he expects Bergoglio to "be conservative with a human face."
"You can't have lived a certain experience and not reflect it," he said.