The choice of Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina as the new pope could mean a strong connection between Hispanics and youth within the Nashville community, according to Nashville Diocese members.
Bergoglio, 76, was elected pope Wednesday and chose the name Francis, becoming the first pontiff from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium.
Looking stunned, Francis shyly waved to the crowd of tens of thousands of people who gathered in St. Peter's Square, marveling that the cardinals needed to look to “the end of the earth” to find a bishop of Rome.
Leaders of Nashville's Diocese quickly had a positive reaction to the election.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville Bishop David Choby was traveling on business when the election took place.
He quickly returned to Nashville to lead a special mass for the election of the new pope.
“We have invited Catholics who are able to be here to come for a mass of thanksgiving,” he said. “It is an occasion for us to express our gratitude.”
Bishop Choby said he was surprised the cardinals elected a pope from outside of Europe.
He said he thought the cardinals would choose an Italian to be pope.
But, he said the choice of Pope Francis is an exciting one for many reasons.
“I have thought the Hispanic culture contributes so much to the life of the Catholic Church and has for centuries,” Choby added. “Some of our greatest saints were Hispanic so I am delighted that the Hispanic community can look to Pope Francis.”
Sister Mary Sarah, President of Aquinas College, shared the Bishop's excitement.
“This will be a huge message for them that their pope is one of them, that he looks like them and he comes from their part of the world,” she said. “I think it will be a resounding call to all Latin Americans to come to their church and to stand forth for their church.”
Around 40 percent of Catholics come from Latin countries, according to Sister Mary Sarah.
David De Jesus Bonilla is from El Salvador, but lives in the United States Now.
“I think it's very significant to know that he is a very humble person,” he said through a translator. “He is recognized in Argentina as being loving without pretense and without ulterior motives.”
His lack of pretense and reputation for living a simple life of poverty may also endear the new pope to young Catholics, according to Father John Sims Baker.
Father Baker is pastor of St. Mary's of Seven Sorrows Church.
He is also the Chaplain for University Catholic, formerly known as Vanderbilt Catholic.
“One of the things that young people particularly respond to, and are looking for, is authenticity,” Father Baker said. “A person who really lives the message and I certainly think Pope Francis has a track record in that regard.”
At the Dominican Campus in Nashville students of Aquinas College and St. Cecilia Academy, both private catholic schools, held a rally for the new pope.
“We have been wondering what is the next thing and with the opening of the conclave yesterday our students have been watching the news Principal of St. Cecilia Sister Anne Catherine,OP said. “We have been talking about it in class.”
Junior student at St. Cecilia Savannah Crow said the entire school was excited to watch the naming of the new pope.
“Oh my goodness it was the best thing ever,” she said. “It was wonderful.”
The Vatican has not said when Pope Francis will be installed, but Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said it was a “good hypothesis” that the pope would be installed next Tuesday, on the feast of St. Joseph, patron saint of the universal church.
*The Associated Press contributed to this report.