GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - West Michigan Catholics celebrated the selection of a new pope Wednesday.
Pope Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, of Argentina was elected in the fifth vote of the Conclave.
Following Pope Francis's introduction at the Vatican, the bells at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in downtown Grand Rapids rang out.
The appointment of Pope Francis answered a number of questions. Among those questions was whether the College of Cardinals stay with tradition and choose someone from Europe or choose some one more representative of the churches changing demographics.
Those changes are reflected in the Diocese of Grand Rapids, Bishop Walter Hurley said.
"We have people from Bosnia. We have people from Guatemala. We have people from all over coming here and many of them are Catholic," Hurley said. "It does change the way we do things. It has to change the way we do things."
But just what effect will the new pope have long-term on the diocese and its 182,000 members?
"Not sure that the Holy Father has a direct impact on the life of an individual dioceses other than to be a sort of of inspiration, if you will, and in a sense reflect a new and revitalized vision," Hurley said.
St. Andrew's Thursday noon mass will be held in the main sanctuary rather than the chapel. Bishop Hurley will be on hand to provide a special prayer for the pope.
Hurley has reached mandatory retirement age. Pope Francis will appoint his replacement.
There was a period of major anticipation between the time white smoke first appeared from the Sistine Chapel at 2:07 p.m. ET -- the historical symbol that a pope had been chosen -- and the time the pope made his first appearance.
"It was an incredible opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to be in the piazza at St. Peter's when the white smoke indicated there was a new pontiff," Father Ron Hutchinson of Jenison, who is in Rome, told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone. "Once he came out, I was awestruck. I was amazed. It was incredible. The crowd was overwhelmed by it. I was overwhelmed. I felt myself almost being relieved, in a sense."
At Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School Wednesday afternoon, students in Robert Kennedy's religion class watched news coverage from Rome with rapt attention.
Some students stayed after school to learn the name of the new pope, who wasn't introduced until shortly after 3 p.m.
Thursday, Kennedy plans to teach students about Pope Francis.
"The background of where this pope is from. He's from Latin America. That's historical. He's a Jesuit of the religious order of the Society of Jesus. That is important to bring out. And to really look at the charisma of this pope," Kennedy said.
Bishop Walter Hurley of the Diocese of Grand Rapids had this to say about the selection of a new pope:
"Through the College of Cardinals' prayerful and devoted deliberation within the papal conclave, Pope Francis I has been elected as the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church in the world and successor to Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI.
The former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Pope Francis I will be our first pontiff from a Latin American country. That background will be a significant asset as the demographics of the Church continue to change around the world.
Together with members of the faithful throughout the world I welcome Pope Francis I and offer my prayers that the Holy Spirit will guide him as he assumes the role of chief pastor, spiritual leader and administrator of the universal Catholic Church and leads the Church and its people into the future."
Bishop Paul Bradley of the Diocese of Kalamazoo provided this statement:
"With great joy and excitement, the Diocese of Kalamazoo embraces the news of the selection of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church who now, and forever, will be known by the name of Pope Francis I. As the fruit of fervent prayer and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Cardinal-electors have fulfilled their extremely important responsibility of choosing the new Holy Father who has now assumed the pastoral leadership of the Church. We pray, Pope Francis I's leadership and pastoral guidance will last for many years to come. In this grace-filled Season of Lent, as we draw ever closer to the glorious celebration of the new life of Easter, I join with Catholics in the Diocese of Kalamazoo, and all people of good will, as we rejoice in this profoundly important news. May God bless Pope Francis I, the Shepherd and Leader of the universal Catholic Church, as we advance the New Evangelization and move into a new chapter in the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to all the world."
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