(VATICAN CITY) — For Hispanics packed into St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, there was one word to describe the feeling of seeing one of their own appear on the balcony as the next leader of the Catholic Church.
“‘Orgullo‘ — Proud,” Santiago Gonzalez Cutre of Argentina told ABC News.
As Pope Francis addressed the faithful in his native tongue, there were cheers and tears of disbelief.
Francis, 76, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, is the first Latin American to lead the Catholic Church. He is also the first Jesuit to become pope.
According to Pew, the largest share of the world’s Catholics — 39 percent — is located in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Argentina, 90 percent of all Christians are Catholic. The country has the 11th largest population of Catholics in the world.
Some said on Wednesday that Francis’ selection signaled a powerful change and the promise for a new future.
“I think he has a good base — especially Latin America has a large Catholic community down there so I think he will be impressive,” said Tom Jackson, a San Diego resident studying abroad in Rome.
Victor Nunez de la Rosa, who was in Rome on vacation, said he’d never dreamed a fellow countryman would become pontiff.
“I still don’t believe it,” he said to ABC News.
“It is a celebration,” said John Kukula of Dallas. “It is just phenomenal. Seeing something like this and the crowds and the sheer joy of people of all nations, literally, the Catholic Church is alive and well. I think it is one of the best things that can be happening at this time — almost a new beginning. … That feelings of hope and a page turning.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Chandrika Narayan and Steve Almasy, CNN
Karla Pequenino, CNN
Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN