BUENOS AIRES - Hundreds of elated people gathered Wednesday outside the Buenos Aires cathedral where Jorge Mario Bergoglio has for years led the faithful in prayer, clapping, hugging and shouting, “Francisco! Francisco!” for the Argentine Jesuit now known as Pope Francis.
“I screamed with happiness when they named Bergoglio!” said Silvana Schmale, a 56-year-old court secretary who said she had seen the newly chosen pope lead Mass many times at the cathedral, calling him “the most humble person I know.
“This is why he was chosen because this is how the church should be in all the world, humble and plain,” Schmale said.
Journalists from near and far thronged to the Buenos Aires Cathedral near the city's famed Plaza de Mayo, seeking words from the thrilled Argentinians. Cars honked in celebration as they passed the crowds.
Some onlookers had not yet heard the news when they came across the exuberant crowds. “Bergoglio? Really?” one asked a reporter, his face incredulous.
Francis is the first pope from the Americas and the first Jesuit to lead the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics worldwide. He is known in Argentina for his dedication to the poor and his humble way of living, famed for taking buses and the subway instead of a car.
“They chose him to do the same thing he did in Argentina – to work for the poor people of the world,” said Gustavo Mollar, a cell center technician who came to the cathedral to give thanks and pray after seeing the news online. “With him, the church will draw closer to the poor.”
Marcelo Figueroa, an evangelical who hosts a television show, said Pope Francis would strengthen dialogue between religions, much as he did by appearing dozens of times on his television series to discuss religious issues with a rabbi and Figueroa himself.
“I am stunned and happy!” Figueroa said, calling the choice "a clear message of interfaith unity.”
Many were overjoyed that the first Latin American pope is an Argentine. Sellers popped up at the cathedral to hawk Argentine and Vatican flags for $2 each. Mingled with the shouts of "Francisco!" were calls of "Argentina!"
Maria Antonia Martinez, a 44-year-old teacher of catechism, said she cried from happiness at the news. “The humility that inspired all of us Argentines will inspire all the world," she said.RELATED:
Emily Alpert in Los Angeles contributed to this report.