Argentines rush to churches, weep as countryman elected pope

Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:03pm EDT
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By Nicolás Misculin and Juliana Castilla

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Some crying, others praying, Argentines poured into churches on Wednesday to celebrate the surprise election of one of their own as Latin America's first pope, with many hoping Francis I will bring his common touch to the Vatican.

Churchgoers in the mainly Roman Catholic country said they want to see Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio - a 76-year-old Argentinian Jesuit respected for his humble lifestyle - bolster faith in the Church after a series of scandals.

"I hope he changes all the luxury that exists in the Vatican, that he steers the church in a more humble direction, something closer to the gospel," said Jorge Andres Lobato, a 73-year-old retired state prosecutor.

"This is a blessing for Argentina," one woman shouted in the streets of central Buenos Aires.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, who has had a distant relationship with Bergoglio during her six years in power, congratulated him in a two-sentence open letter.

Bergoglio has criticized Argentine politicians for failing to do more to fight poverty in a country in the grip of high inflation and with a long history of economic instability.

Bergoglio angered the government by speaking out against laws sponsored by leftist Fernandez over the last two years legalizing gay marriage and abortion in cases of rape.


A faithful holds a rosary while waiting for smoke to rise from a chimney on top of the Sistine Chapel during the second day of voting for the election of a new pope, at the Vatican March 13, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard