Chicago's Latino Catholic community celebrates election of new pope

March 14, 2013 4:18:06 PM PDT
Pope Francis is the first Jesuit to lead the Roman Catholic Church. That's big news for the Latino Catholic community in Chicago.

As Chicago's Latino Catholics attended mass Thursday, there was a new sense of hope that one of their own is the global leader of the Catholic Church.

While Pope Francis is from Argentina, Catholics from all Latin countries say he is one of them.

"In the Latino community it is better because we need someone who understands the problems," said Maria Valencuela.

"He will probably help our countries for better development and justice," said Salvador Alvarez.

Many hope he will bring a sense of peace to the Latin American Countries where people live with injustices every day.

Bishop Alberto Rojas is Cardinal Francis George's liason to the hispanic community. He says he is confident Pope Francis will bring a different approach when it comes to addressing the problems of Latin America.

"People will feel like more he is talking to us, not that the other popes haven't done it. They all do. He will be one of us," said Bishop Rojas.

He says he is even more encouraged about the name Francis, which is taken from St. Francis of Assisi, who devoted his life to the poor.

As a cardinal, the pope lived a humble and simple life in Argentina.

Monica Mavric Beltrami is also from Argentina, and says she will never forget her meetings with the then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio.

"When I was finalizing my meeting I called the office and to my surprise he answered the phone," said Beltrami. "He took the time, never seemed to be in hurry, listened to what I had to say."

At Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Pilsen, they're having a double celebration. They're excited the new pope is the first Jesuit pope and first Latin American pope.

They call it a "wonderful and exciting" opportunity.

Students had a prayer service and a "Getting to Know Pope Francis" assembly, a history lesson of sorts.

"They probably don't know much about Francis. I didn't, up until yesterday," said Cristo Rey Jesuit High School's Father James Ackerman. "I was so excited to know that he was the first pope from the Americas, and then I was shocked that he was the first Jesuit pope. So I think the students need to know that. They need to know that they now have a leader in the church who is from their culture, from Argentina, and can speak from that background."

"So many of our families, the majority of them are immigrant families," said Cristo Rey president Antonio Ortiz. "When you look at his story, his personal story being framed and taught by the Jesuits, his family immigrated from Italy to Argentina, it really is personal and reflective of the story of many of our families here at Cristo Rey."

Thursday morning, the school chaplain and president both told students the Catholic Church needed what they call a shot in the arm, to revive the leadership of the church.

"He seems like he is really humble," said Cristo Rey senior Jessica Barajas. "He came out very simple, wooden cross and all white. He didn't even wear what the popes usually wear. Me and my parents were like, maybe he's gonna do some reforms for the church."

"It really shows what we can expect from him as a pope and really give us faith that he can help out the whole community and he actually lead us in the right direction," said junior Jesse Lopez.

Most of all, school leaders and students say they want to see how this pope will address social issues like poverty.